Atriplex hymenelytra (Torrey) S. Watson

Chenopodiaceae (Goosefoot Family)


Desert-holly is a compact, rounded shrub with white-scurfy herbage growing to about 3-1/2' high.  The numerous alternate leaves are what gives it its common name, being widely ovate to round, silvery and somewhat thickish, up to 1-1/2" long and petioled, but sharply and irregularly dentate like a holly leaf.  Desert-holly is a dioecious species with male and female plants on separate plants.  The staminate flowers are in short dense glomerules or leafy paniculate spikes, bractless, apetalous, and with a several-parted calyx.  The pistillate flowers are in short dense spikes and are composed of only an ovary with two stigmas enclosed within a pair of bracts on short stalks. When mature, the fruit is strongly compressed, round to reniform, sometimes slightly crenate and reticulate-veined.  Desert-holly is usually to be found on alkaline soils but on hilly and rocky areas and in canyon washes rather than lower flats. It is present in creosote bush scrub on both deserts, but is particularly prevalent around Death Valley to about 4500', and blooms from January to April.  These pictures were taken in the Mecca Hills.

Click here for Latin name derivations: 1) Atriplex 2) hymenelytra.
Pronunciation: AT-ri-plex hy-men-o-LIE-tra.
Click here for Botanical Term Meanings.