FOUR-WING SALT BUSH (Atriplex canescens)

Above, photographed on October 9, 2010 in Lower Hot Springs Canyon, this plant displays both the characteristic "four-wing" flowers and the long narrow leaves of the species. (Click on the image to enlarge it.) Found throughout Arizona below 6,500' elevation, Four-wing Saltbush is adapted to very diverse soil and climatic conditions, but is most frequently found in sandy soils. We mainly see it in Lower Hot Springs Canyon and in the broad floodplains of Soza Mesa. Atriplex species are very salt-tolerant, and they flower in summer and early fall.




Leaves (see left) are gray-green, grayer on the lower surface. They are usually "broadest at the middle and less than 1 cm. wide" (Kearney & Peebles 1960, p256).







The flowers and fruit of this plant give it the name "Four-Wing", a metaphor the basis for which you can see clearly in the image at the right.

(click on the image to enlarge it).

In cross-section each fruit looks "cruciform" -- it has four lobes, each pair on opposite sides of a central axis. The "free tips of the fruiting bractlets [are] commonly not surpassing the wings [in length]" (Kearney & Peebles 1990, p. 256) These fruits are highly prized by browsers, and Native Americans collected leaves and seeds for food, using both the salt-flavored leaves and young shoots for greens and parching the seeds for meal





Below, an unusually large (for our area) Four-wing Salt bush in Lower Hot Springs Canyon, March 2004. (This one is nearly 5 feet high.)

Below, a small (and fruiting) plant, photographed in Sierra Blanca Spring Wash in September 2004.

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