Herbs & Plants

Atriplex canescens

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Botanical Name: Atriplex canescens
Family: Amaranthaceae
Genus: Atriplex
Species: A. canescens
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Caryophyllales

Common Names :Saltbush, Grey Sage Brush, Chamiso, Chamiza, Four wing saltbush, Four-wing saltbush, and Fourwing saltbush

Habitat : Atriplex canescens is native to Central and southwestern N. America – South Dakota to Kansas, Texas, California and Mexico. ISandy or gravelly, commonly non-saline but in other situations obviously saline, sites in Joshua tree, blackbrush, greasewood, salt desert shrub, sagebrush, mountain brush communitiest grows on the
Atriplex canescens is an evergreen Shrub growing to 1.8 m (6ft) by 1.8 m (6ft). It is not frost tender. It is in leaf 12-Jan. It blooms in July and the seeds ripen in August. The flowers are dioecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but only one sex is to be found on any one plant so both male and female plants must be grown if seed is required) and are pollinated by Wind.The plant is not self-fertile.


Atriplex canescens has a highly variable form, and readily hybridizes with several other species in the Atriplex genus. The degree of polyploidy also results in variations in form. Its height can vary from 1 foot to 10 feet, but 2 to 4 feet is most common. The leaves are thin and 0.5 to 2 inches long.

It is most readily identified by its fruits, which have four wings at roughly 90 degree angles and are densely packed on long stems.

Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline and saline soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought. The plant can tolerate maritime exposure.

Requires a position in full sun in any well-drained but not too fertile soil. Tolerates saline and very alkaline soils. Plants are very tolerant of maritime exposure, though they dislike wet climates. Resents root disturbance when large. Succeeds in a hot dry position. A very ornamental plan, though it is liable to succumb to winter wet when grown on heavy or rich soils. This species forms hybrids with Atriplex confertifolia and A. gardneri. Dioecious. Male and female plants must be grown if seed is required. Occasional monoecious plants are found. Individual plants can change sex. The change is more generally from female to male and is apparently associated with stress such as cold or drought. It would appear that the change confers a survival advantage on the plant.
Seed – sow April/May in a cold frame in a compost of peat and sand. Germination usually takes place within 1 – 3 weeks at 13°c. Pot up the seedlings when still small into individual pots, grow on in a greenhouse for the first winter and plant out in late spring or early summer after the last expected frosts. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, July/August in a very sandy compost in a frame. Very easy. Pot up as soon as they start to root (about 3 weeks) and plant out in their permanent positions late in the following spring. Cuttings of mature wood of the current season’s growth, November/December in a frame. Very easy. Pot up in early spring and plant out in their permanent position in early summer

Edible Uses:
Leaves – cooked or raw. A very acceptable taste with a salty tang. The leaves can be used at any time of the year though winter harvesting must be light because the plant is not growing much at this time of year. Seed – cooked. Ground into a powder, mixed with cereals and used in making cakes etc or used as a piñole. It is small and very fiddly to utilize. The ground up seed can also be mixed with water and drunk as a refreshing beverage. The burnt green herb yields culinary ashes high in minerals and these are used by the Hopi Indians to enhance the colour of blue corn products. The ashes can be used like baking soda.

Medicinal Uses:
The leaves can be made into a soapy lather and used as a wash on itches and rashes such as chickenpox. A poultice of the crushed leaves can be applied to ant bites to reduce the pain and swelling. The dried tops as a lukewarm tea for nausea and vomiting from the flu; taken hot for breaking fevers. The cold tea is used for simple stomachache.Among the Zuni people, an infusion of dried root and blossoms or a poultice of blossoms is used for ant bites.

Other Uses:
A good hedge in maritime areas, it responds well to trimming. The leaves and stems were burnt by the Hopi Indians and the alkaline ash used to maintain the blue colour when cooking blue corn. A yellow dye is obtained from the leaves and stems. The leaves can be made into a soapy lather and used as a hair wash. The plant has fire-retardant properties and can be used for barrier plantings to control bush fires. Twigs are also attached to prayer plumes and sacrificed to the cottontail rabbit to ensure good hunting.

Known Hazards : No member of this genus contains any toxins, all have more or less edible leaves. However, if grown with artificial fertilizers, they may concentrate harmful amounts of nitrates in their leaves.
Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


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