Shrubs erect, 0.5--5 m. Bark gray, cracked and irregularly fissured. Branches alternate or whorled, rigid, angle of divergence about 30°. Twigs pale green, becoming yellow, then gray with age, glaucous, with numerous very fine longitudinal grooves; internodes 3--10 cm. Terminal buds spinelike, to 10 mm. Leaves in whorls of 3, 5--15 mm, connate to 1/2--3/4 their length; bases becoming gray and shredded with age; apex spinose. Pollen cones 1--several at node, obovoid, 6--10 mm, on short, scaly peduncles; bracts in 8--12 whorls of 3, reddish brown, obovate, slightly clawed, 3--4 × 2--3 mm, membranous; bracteoles nearly equaling bracts; sporangiophores 4--5 mm, exserted to 1/4 their length, with 4--5 short-stalked microsporangia. Seed cones 1--several at node, obovoid, 10--15 mm, on short, scaly peduncles (rarely sessile); bracts in 6--9 whorls of 3, circular, 8--12 × 8--12 mm, papery, translucent with reddish brown center and base, base clawed, margins entire. Seeds 1(--3), ellipsoid, 8--15 × 1.5--3 mm, light brown, smooth.
Coning late winter--early spring. Dry rocky slopes to flat sandy areas; 500--2000 m; Ariz., Calif., N.Mex., Tex.; Mexico in Baja California, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Sonora.
The hybrid Ephedra × intermixta is discussed under E . torreyana.
Wiggins 1964, Benson and Darrow 1981, Kearney and Peebles 1981, Turner et al. 1995
Common Name: longleaf jointfir Duration: Perennial Nativity: Native Lifeform: Shrub General: Erect, yellowish green shrub 0.5-2 m tall, with very fine longitudinal grooves, straight branches, alternate or whorled, 1.5-3.5 mm in diameter; angle of divergence about 30 degrees; spinose tipped branches. Needles: Persistent leaf scales, sheathing to about middle or above, 5-15 mm long, acuminate to acerose, becoming white and shredded. Cones: Pollen cones sessile, staminate obovate, 6-10 mm long, with 8-12 whorls of 3 thin, membranous bracts; bracts of ovulate cones in 8-10 whorls, membranous, obovate, 10-14 mm long, sessile or short-pedunculate, mature bracts orbicular, 8-12 mm long, reddish brown in center and toward base, translucent yellowish marginally, entire. Seeds: Seed cones one to several at nodes, seeds tetragonal in cross section, 9-15 mm long, 1.5-3 mm wide, equaling bracts, light brown, smooth. Ecology: Found on dry rocky slopes to flat sandy areas from 1,500-6,500 ft (457-1981 m); flowers late winter-early spring. Distribution: s CA, AZ, NM, s TX; south to n MEX. Notes: Green twigs end in a spinose tip, unique among the Ephedra. Leaves and bracts in threes are helpful in separating this species. With age the leaves become white and shredded. Ethnobotany: Used for sores, stomach troubles, kidneys and against venereal disease, often made into stimulant tea. Etymology: Ephedra is from Greek ephedra, used by Pliny for common mare's tail, while trifurca means three-forked. Synonyms: None Editor: SBuckley 2010, FSCoburn 2015