Atriplex canescens (Pursh.) Nutt. var. canescens

Four-wing Saltbush
Chenopodiaceae (Goosefoot Family)


Four-wing saltbush is probably the most easily recognized of the two dozen saltbush species that are resident in Southern California, mainly because of its large distinctive fruits as seen above. This is a large dioecious shrub with many spreading to ascending branches that can reach 6'-7' in height. The stems are terete and white-scurfy aging to gray.  The alternate sessile leaves are linear-spatulate to linear-oblong and up to 2" long and 1/8" to 5/16" wide.  The staminate and pistillate inflorescences are found on separate plants, with the staminate flowers born on glomerules in terminal panicles of dense spikes, and the pistillate flowers in dense leafy-bracted spikes.  Like all of the saltbushes, the male flowers lack bracts and petals, and have a several-parted calyx with 3-5 exserted stamens while the female flowers are composed only of a pair of bracts that encloses the ovary. The fruiting bracts are stalked, with a hardened ovoid body which bears on both sides two prominent longitudinal wings that are wavy to sharply dentate and usually fused to near the top.  A subspecies named linearis has very narrow leaves (only about 1/16" wide), sessile fruiting bracts, and fruits with wings generally less than 1/8" wide, and is to be found at very low elevations in the Colorado Desert and possibly the northern West Transverse Range.  Var. canescens is common from the Sierras and Tehachapis to the north Transverse Range, South Coast, Peninsular Range and both deserts on dry plains and hillsides to 7500', and blooms from June to August.

Click here for Latin name derivations: 1) Atriplex 2) canescens.
Pronunciation: AT-ri-plex kan-ES-ens.
Click here for Botanical Term Meanings.