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Santa Catalina Mahogany

One of the rarest trees in North America

Catalina Mahogany Tree

Leaves of Cercocarpus traskiae at the San Diego Wild Animal Park in Escondido. Courtesy of Stickpen via Wikimedia Commons.

The Catalina mahogany or Santa Catalina Island mountain-mahogany (Cercocarpus traskiae) is an evergreen tree or shrub in the Rose family that grows 6 to 15 feet tall and grows naturally nowhere else in the world except on Santa Catalina Island. This species of tree is protected as endangered under federal and state law and listed on the “Red List” of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). It is considered one of the rarest trees in North America. Once abundant across the island, grazing by introduced herbivores such as goats, mule deer and pigs on seedlings reduced the species’ population in the wild to only 14 trees in the wild and only six of these are determined to be pure Cercocarpus traskiae (non-hybrid). Even in 1897, when local island botanist and poet Blanche Trask first discovered the species, only 40 to 50 plants were found.