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    Atriplex is an ancient Latin name for a now unknown plant; the name was applied to this genus in modern times by Linnaeus in 1753.
Atriplex canescens

Atriplex canescens (Four-Winged Saltbush)
Amaranthaceae (Amaranth Family)
(formerly Chenopodiaceae, Goosefoot Family)

Semi-desert, foothills. Woodlands, openings. Spring.
Hunter Canyon, Utah, May 2, 2005.

In the high desert of the Four Corners area, Four-Winged Saltbush is a very common shrub, often in extensive colonies.  It grows to a conspicuous four or five feet in diameter.  Its flowers are tiny and  yellow, but when massed in a good moisture year such as 2005, the flowers put on quite a display.  Seeds, as shown below, are quite large, massed, persistent, and so obvious that they make identifying the shrub pretty easy.  But some plants have no seeds for the plant can be either monoecious or dioecious.  Most interestingly, Atriplex canescens plants can change sex depending on environmental conditions.  Click to read about this fascinating plant.

"Canescens", "grayish", refers to the leaf color.

Atriplex canescens

Atriplex canescens (Four-Winged Saltbush)
Amaranthaceae (Amaranth Family)
(formerly Chenopodiaceae, Goosefoot Family)

Semi-desert, foothills. Woodlands, openings. Spring.
Hunter Canyon, Utah, May 2, 2005.

Atriplex canescens
Atriplex canescens
Atriplex canescens

Atriplex canescens (Four-Winged Saltbush)
Amaranthaceae (Amaranth Family)
(formerly Chenopodiaceae, Goosefoot Family)

Semi-desert, foothills. Woodlands, openings. Spring.
Arches National Park, Utah, May 5, 2005.
Murphy Trail, Island in the Sky, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, September 27, 2005.
Negro Bill Canyon, Utah, April 1, 2004.

Maturing seed pods.

Atriplex canescens

Atriplex canescens (Four-Winged Saltbush)
Amaranthaceae (Amaranth Family)
(formerly Chenopodiaceae, Goosefoot Family)

Semi-desert, foothills. Woodlands, openings. Spring.
Bill Canyon, Utah, April 1, 2004.

Leaves are narrow and covered with fine hairs giving the light green leaf a silvery-gray ("canescent") appearance.

Atriplex confertifolia

Atriplex confertifolia (Shadscale, Saltbush)
Amaranthaceae (Amaranth Family)
(formerly Chenopodiaceae, Goosefoot Family)

Semi-desert, foothills. Shrublands, openings. Spring.
McElmo Canyon, Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, March 27, 2004.

This is a common, low shrub of the Four Corners area, growing on open hot hillsides.  Its rounded low profile is punctuated by numerous spiny projections. The plant is dioecious, and flowers are inconspicuous yellow for males and green/yellow for females.  Attractive pink bracts get much more attention.  Leaves are closely packed ("confertifolia") and dotted with a silvery scale.

Atriplex confertifolia was first collected by John Fremont near the Great Salt Lake in 1843 and he and John Torrey named it Obione confertifolia.  Sereno Watson renamed it Atriplex confertifolia.

Atriplex confertifolia

Atriplex confertifolia 

Atriplex confertifolia (Shadscale, Saltbush)
Amaranthaceae (Amaranth Family)
(formerly Chenopodiaceae, Goosefoot Family)

Semi-desert, foothills. Shrublands, openings. Spring.
McElmo Canyon, Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, March 27 and April 2, 2004.

Clusters of tiny yellow flowers emerge from a cloak of red bracts.

Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Eradicated
Questionable presence

Range map for Atriplex canescens

Range map for Atriplex confertifolia