Alexis authored today’s entry:
Ephedra viridis, commonly called green ephedra or green joint-fir, is an erect shrub growing to approximately 1.2m (4ft) in height. The species is found in the western US states of New Mexico, Arizona, California, Colorado, Utah and Nevada. Ephedra species belong to the Gnetophyta, a taxonomic division of plants (compare with Pinophyta, the conifers, or Magnoliophyta, the flowering plants). As the Gnetophyta have some characteristics that are found in one or the other of Pinophyta and Magnoliophyta, some hypotheses suggest the group is an evolutionary link between conifers and flowering plants.
This dioecious species is both resistant to drought and winter-hardy. Because the stems can still be found sticking up through layers of snow, it is an important food source for large game animals in the winter. Often found growing on limestone, green ephedra is adapted to dry, rocky, open sites where the soils are coarse and very well-drained.
Traditionally, North American First Nations used the stems of Ephedra viridis to make beverages, including a medicinal tea for the treatment of back pain. Furthermore, the seeds could be brewed to make a coffee-like beverage, or ground to make flour. Ephedra species are sometimes known as Mormon tea; early Mormon settlers reportedly drank beverages made from Ephedra in the place of regular coffee or tea.