Atriplex collina Wooton & Standl
Atriplex jonesii Standl.
Atriplex sabulosa M.E.Jones
Atriplex subconferta Rydb.
Obione confertifolia Torr. & Frém.
Obione rigida Torr. & Frém.
Common Name: Shadscale
Plant growing in native habitat
Photograph by: Matt Lavin
Atriplex confertifolia is a spiny, densely-branched evergreen shrub growing 30 - 80cm tall[ and 30 - 175cm wide270,
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a food and a medicine.
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.
Western N. America - Montana to North Dakota, south to California and Texas
Gravelly to fine-textured soils in greasewood, mat-atriplex, other salt desert shrub, sagebrush, pinyon-juniper, and ponderosa pine communities; at elevations from 600 - 2,200 metres[
|Other Uses Rating||
Atriplex confertifolia is a plant of arid areas and can grow in climates where mean annual rainfall is within the range 100 - 200mm[
]. It can tolerate temperatures from -5 to 50°c in the growing season[
]. Plants can experience winter temperatures as low as -55°c in their native habitat[
Requires a light or medium well-drained but not too fertile soil in a sunny position[
]. Tolerates saline and very alkaline soils[
]. Succeeds in a hot dry position. Plants are moderately tolerant of drought[
Plants resent root disturbance when they are large[
Plants are apt to succumb to winter wet when grown on heavy or rich soils.
The plant has several different forms, each adapted to different environmental conditions. In addition, there are various ploidy levels - as well as diploids, there are triploids, tetrapoids etc. Although ploidy levels can only be shown by testing samples of the plant, they are adapted in particular to different moisture levels and elevations. It is important, therefore, when choosing plants for a specific location to ensure that you obtain seed/plant material from a similar site[
Shadscale forms hybrids with Atriplex canescens, Atriplex garrettii, Atriplex corrugata, and Atriplex gardneri varieties. It is, however, most closely allied to Atriplex parryi and Atriplex spinifera[
The plant does not usually survive fire and can only regenerate from seed in the soil[
A dioecious species - both male and female forms must be grown if fruit and seed are required.
Leaves - cooked[
] and used as greens[
]. The water in which the leaves is cooked is used in making corn pudding[
Seed - used in piñole or ground into a meal and used as a thickener in making bread or mixed with flour in making bread[
, 105. 161,
The plant has been burnt and the smoke inhaled as a treatment for epilepsy[
The boiled leaves have been used as a liniment for sore muscles and aches[
A poultice of the mashed leaves have been applied to the chest and a decoction of the leaves drunk to treat colds[
Healthy growing plants are said to be an indicator of subsoil salinity[
Seed - sow mid spring in a cold frame in a compost of peat and sand. Germinates in 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.
The seed of this species can be very difficult to germinate - allowing seed to ripen for 12 months and then sowing it in the autumn and allowing it to experience chilling and leaching by rain can help improve germination rates[
Cuttings of half-ripe wood, mid summer 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, late autumn in a frame. Very easy. Pot up in early spring and plant out in their permanent position in early summer[