Epehdra regeliana belongs to the order Ephederales, family Ephederaceae.
The family contains 1 genus and 42-50 species. Most species are highly branched and adapted to dry conditions. They vary in size from a few inches to over 12 feet long. Most are erect or reclining. The leaves are opposite or whorled, to some degree joined at the base, and often reduced to scalelike sheaths. Most are deciduous, and photosynthesis is carried out by evergreen stems which have sunken stomates. The xylem contains vessels as does that of most angiopserms. Pollen and seed strobili are complex. The family occurs mainly in dry regions of most of the Temperate Zone, except for Australia,
and can occur to elevations of -13,000 feet. Plants of this family have been the source of medicines used In treating coughing, nasal congestion, and circulatory weakness. Also, extracts-have been used to constrict blood vessels. As late as 1935 1,000 tons of baled plants were imported for extracting ephedrine. Plants in the western USA are sometimes called 'Mormon tea' because Mormon settlers made a tea from the stems. The settlers did this to avoid caffeine, but the tea from Ephedra contains another stimulant. Ephedra tweediana, which grows in southern South America, is different from other members in that it grows in moist forests and along river banks where the annual precipitation is about 40 inches.
Welwitschia is the only plant of the order Welwitschiales, family Welwitschiaceae. It is native only to the coast of Namibia and Angola. While our specimen is quite young, these plants can live for 1000-2000 years. They are adapted to the desert conditions, with a long tap root to reach ground water and leaves that can absorb water from fog. Additionally they develop a cork0like bark which provides protection against the grass fires of their native habitat. They are the only gymnosperm known to carry out CAM photosynthesis. The plant has a thick short stem and only two leaves, which grow slowly and continuously and can reach some 12 feet in length. The largest known specimen is 4.5 feet high and 13 feet in diameter. Reproduction occurs with the production of pollen cones and seed cones on separate plants. The cones are pollinated by insects, and seeds are spread by wind.
Plants of the genus Gnetum belong to the order Gnetales, family Gentaceae. The trees are dioecious and produce edible nuts. The specimens in our collection were obtained from Hawaii.