Mormon Tea

Genus Ephedra
Joint-Fir Family (Ephedraceae)





Mormon Tea
(Ephedra viridis)


This small desert shrub is a gymnosperm (a member of the Naked Seed division of plants), so it is therefore more closely related to pine trees than to flowering plants. The plant has no leaves, or only very tiny ones. The stems are green, and perform the necessary photosynthesis for the plant.

The dried or roasted stems can be brewed to make a stimulating beverage. The plant contains the drug pseudoephedrine, which is sold commercially as a nasal decongestant and cold remedy. Some Old World species contain ephedrine, a stronger stimulant which is sometimes used as a weight loss and energy enhancing drug.



Mormon Tea plant

Mormon Tea - male cones


Male (left) and female (below) cones occur on separate plants. They are about 1/4 inch long, and grow at the stem joints.

Mormon Tea - female cones



Along Utah Highway 276
San Juan County, Utah


References


Photographed
by Sandra Bray