Right at the edge of the South Rim, especially at the tips of promontories
like Yaki and Grandview Points, the Curl-leaf Mountain Mahogany bush or small
tree shows off its bright, obvious, silver-gray twigs. In fact, the twigs show
right through the foliage, and this identifies the plant from a distance once
you get an eye for it. Its deep green 1-inch leaves are narrow, pointed, curled
under at the edges, and lighter colored beneath. Smaller ½-inch leaves identify
a subspecies (sometimes considered a species) called Little-leaf Mountain
Another species, Alder-leaf Mountain Mahogany, also occurs in the South Rim forest. Its leaves are quite different: small, oval to wedge-shaped, strongly veined and toothed on the upper edge--quite like a miniature alder leaf. I came upon this plant about 4 miles east of Grandview Point in the forest north of highway 64. It is abundant on the Kaibab Trail at Cedar Ridge.
Inconspicuous red buds in March become tiny yellow flowers in April.
Flowers give way to seed plumes that look like those of cliffrose--a small brown seed
attached to a white, feathery plume.
Mountain Mahogany wood is astonishingly heavy and hard, sinking in water, thus the common name "ironwood". Taking a high polish, the wood is sometimes used for cabinet-work. Deer and elk browse the plant and rabbits make their forms (scooped-out resting-hollows) at ground level under its dense foliage.