PLANT OF THE MONTH
Joint Fir (Ephedra)
The nondescript look of this broom-like trailside bush belies its turbulent history. Also called Mormon tea, it contains ephedra, a powerful stimulant used medicinally worldwide for millennia. Ephedra was a popular dietary aid until high-profile deaths caused an FDA ban. The food supplement industry spent millions over a decade fighting the ruling until the Supreme Court upheld it. Seven species of the tangled, branching plant grow statewide, but don’t look for showy flowers. Tiny pea-size cones on the twiggy branches produce pollen and seeds in the early spring.