Plant: Scabrous shrubs to 2m tall, about as wide as high; branches erect, stiff, rather brittle; to 2m tall, about as wide as high; branches erect, stiff, rather brittle Leaves: ascending, thick, broadly elliptic or elliptic-obovate, commonly 1-2(-2.5) times as long as wide, mostly 3-15 mm long, 2.5-10 mm wide; petioles to 1 mm long INFLORESCENCE: 1-10 cm long, crowded bracteate racemes or raceme-like thyrses terminating some of the branches Flowers: calyx lobes 1-3 mm long, with whitish-scarious margins; petals obovate to short-spatulate, finely ciliate with glandular hairs, subequal to or clearly surpassing the sepals, 1-3 mm long, persistent in fruit. Fruit: small, dry, oblong-cylindric, light brown to light green, capsule-like but indehiscent, surpassing the perianth, thick-cylindric, greenish, 3.5-5 mm long, tipped by the stylar beak; SEEDS 1 per locule, oblong, straw-colored, without an aril REFERENCES: Brasher, Jeffrey W. 1998. Celastraceae J. Ariz. - Nev. Acad. Sci. 30(2): 57.
Common Name: Rio Grande saddlebush Duration: Perennial Nativity: Native Lifeform: Shrub General: Shrub to 2.5 m, with gray stems, scabrous, with brittle branches which are stiff and erect. Leaves: Alternate, crowded, oval and small, 3-15 mm long, 2.5-10 mm wide, thick and leathery, with entire margins that are thickened or undercurled, on petioles to 1 mm. Flowers: Small in loose clusters, the calyx tube 5-lobed, 103 mm long, 5 petals that are fringed, obovate to short spatulate, finely ciliate with glandular hairs. Fruits: Achene greenish 3.5-5 mm long, tipped with a beak. Ecology: Found in in rocky places, often on limestone or calcareous substrates from 1,500-2,500 ft (457-762 m), flowers March-June. Distribution: Two varieties exist but in the broad sense, it is distributed in se AZ, s NM and n MX with disjunct populations of var. utahensis in nw AZ. Notes: Can be distinguished by the erect, whitish stems and branches which are erect or ascending; the thick, curling, oval leaves which are scabrous (rough to the touch due to small, stiff, bent hairs) and curved upwards and white flowers clustered at branch tips. Ethnobotany: Unknown Etymology: The genus Mortonia is named after the American naturalist Dr. Samuel George Morton (1799-1851), scabrella likely refers to the scabrous texture of the plant. Synonyms: Mortonia sempervirens subsp. scabrella Editor: SBuckley, 2011, FSCoburn, 2014