in Tucson, Phoenix,
Arizona and California

Gardening in Tucson, Phoenix, Arizona and California

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Atriplex canescens: Fourwing Saltbush

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Form: Shrub with highly variable shape.
Leaf retention: Evergreen but drought deciduous.
Growth rate: Moderate.
Mature Size: 5' high and 8' wide.
Flowers: Tiny and clustered male flowers are green, tiny female flowers yellow. Male and female flowers on separate plants, but plants can change sex after unusually cold, dry, or heavy-bearing years. Pollen may be a problem for sensitive individuals.
Bloom: Spring to summer.
Fruit: Showy clusters of brown, four-winged seeds on female plants in fall.
Leaves: Small, gray-green, linear leaves covered with silvery, scale-like particles instead of hairs.
Stems: No thorns. Covered with silvery scale-like particles.
Roots: Wide and deep. Has taproot.
Wildlife: Attracts bees, butterflies and birds. Browsed by mammals, must be caged until 4' high. A caterpillar food plant for various species of butterflies. One caterpillar requires a species of ant to attend to it. If insecticide has been sprayed on the plant or at the base to kill ants, it will be absorbed by the plant and affect the plant's aroma. Butterflies will then not lay their eggs on it, reducing the number of butterflies. This plant also attracts lacewings and ladybugs which feed on the scale insects and mealybugs which may attack the plant.
Toxic / Danger: May accumulate selenium from soil in leaves and become toxic to livestock.
Origin: Western North America.

Cultivation and Uses
USDA hardiness zones: 3-11.
Heat tolerant: Yes.
Drought tolerant: Yes.
Sun: Full sun to part shade.
Water once established: Monthly during drought.
Soil: Dry, pH 6.6-7.8 (neutral to slightly alkaline), tolerant otherwise.
Prune: In late winter, prune to shape or cut back by one-third to re-invigorate.
Litter: Low.
Propagation: Seed.
Uses: Erosion control, casual hedge. Not considered ornamental.

Other common names are Four-Wing Saltbush and Saltbush. Plant is fire resistant. Tolerates tough conditions. Considered the most rapidly evolving plant in North America due to cross-breeding with related species. The top picture shows the green fruit (four-winged seeds).

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Atriplex canescens: Fourwing Saltbush - seed pods

Atriplex canescens: Fourwing Saltbush - leaves

Atriplex canescens: Fourwing Saltbush