Chenopodiaceae Sarcobatus vermiculatus

Multiple images of a woody shrub with reddish green cones.

Sarcobatus vermiculatus var. vermiculatus

Family: Chenopodiaceae – Goosefoot Family

Woody, thorny shrubs; (10 to 20 dm) tall or more

Leaves: usually alternate; small, simple; grey or bluish; linear; 0.12” to 1.8” (0.3 to 4.5 cm) long, 0.04” to 0.12” (1 to 3 mm) wide

Flowers: male (staminate) and female (pistillate) flowers generally found on the same plant (monoecious), occasionally on separate plants (dioecious); imperfect; small and inconspicuous, greenish;

male (staminate) flowers; 0 petals; 0 sepals; 2 or 3 stamens; catkinlike 0.4” to 1.6” (1 to 4 cm) long;

female (pistillate) flowers: 0 petals; has bracts; 1 pistil; 1 to 3 stigmas; the pistil is surrounded by a cuplike perianth; perianth about 0.04” (1 mm) long

Pollinators: wind; not self-fertile

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

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

Habitat in Arches National Park: desert shrub communities; characteristically grows on alkaline and halophytic (salty) soils

Location seen: Wolfe Ranch, Delicate Arch Viewpoint

Other: The genus name, “Sarcobatus”, is from the Greek “sarco” meaning “flesh” and “batos” meaning “bramble” referring to the succulent leaves and spiny branches. The species name, “vermiculatus” means “worm-like”.

This plant is an important browse species, even though sodium or potassium salts often accumulate in or on the leaves. This plant contains soluble oxalates which are poisonous to livestock when the plant is eaten in large quantities.

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

Last updated: February 4, 2023

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