Chenopodiaceae Atriplex canescens

Shrub with small clusters of yellowish brown flowers. Stems on shrub are woody with silvery green leaves that are thin and taper at tip.

Atriplex canescens var. occidentalis

Family: Chenopodiaceae – Goosefoot Family

Woody shrubs; 2.6' to 6.6' (8 to 20 dm) tall

Leaves: alternate; simple; small, grey or bluish; 0.4” to 16” (10 to 40 mm) long, 0.08” to 0.32” (2 to 8 mm) wide; covered with small scales

Flowers: male and female flowers usually found on separate plants (dioecious), rarely monoecious; small and inconspicuous and in clusters; female (pistillate) flowers: 0 petals; 1 pistil; 1 to 3 stigmas; 2 styles; pair of bracts; flowers are 2” to 16” (5 to 40 cm) long; pistillate flowers without a perianth and the pistil naked or rarely with a perianth, commonly enclosed within a pair of bracts;

male (staminate) flowers: yellow or rarely brown have 0 petals; 3 to 5 sepals; bractless; 3 to 5 stamens; male flowers are 0.08” to 0.32” (2 to 3 mm) wide

Pollinators: wind; not self-fertile; can cause hayfever

Fruits: utricles – small 1 seeded fruit with a thin wall with 4 prominent wings; large number of seeds that persist

Blooms in Arches National Park: April, May, June, July, August

Habitat in Arches National Park: sandy sites in desert shrub and pinyon-juniper communities

Location seen: Visitor Center area, Windows trailhead, Devils Garden

Other: The genus name, “Atriplex”, is the Latin name for the plant. The species name, “canescens”, means “grayish-white” and refers to the color of the leaves.

This plant's common name comes from the seed's appearance and the fact that it typically grows on halophytic (salty) soils. This plant is an important browse plant and the seeds provide food for animals such as antelope squirrels.

The family is called the goosefoot family because the leaf shape may look like a goose's foot. Plants in this family are generally weedy, but beets and spinach are members of this family.

Last updated: December 16, 2021

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