Four-wing saltbush is a species of evergreen shrub in the Amaranthaceae family, which is native to the western United States. It has a highly variable form, and readily hybridizes with several other species in the Atriplex genus. Its height can vary from 1 foot to 10 feet, but 2 to 4 feet is most common. Summer flowers are insignificant, but the clusters of gold-tan, four-winged fruits, which occur on female plants only, are showy and resembles a mass of corn flakes. The branches and small, narrow leaves of this mound-shaped shrub are covered with a dense, silvery fine hairs. Extremely variable shrub: compact and rounded; sprawling and low; to open-branched and treelike.
It becomes very drought tolerant after a few good waterings. They will drop their leaves under extreme drought though. The Atriplex species tolerate and remove the excess salts by bladders in their leaves that act as salt sinks, keeping the salt from the plant cells. As the old leaves are shed or eaten the salt is removed from the plant. The salt they accumulate in their leaves allows them to extract water from the soil other plants cannot. They need to be under some form of water stress, either drought, salt, or salt spray.
Fourwing saltbush grows on a wide range of soils from clays to sands.
Important as wildlife habitat plant providing both cover and food. The fruit is eaten by mammals and birds and nectar for bees and insects. If you are planting in a rabbit or deer area cage the plant until the foliage reaches 3-4ft at least.
Growing Plants in the Desert — Important Information
The information presented here is, to the best of my knowledge, accurate and based on my research from reliable sources, observations I have made of plants growing in my, and other gardens I have visited, and observations of the plants in their native habitats. I would appreciate your feedback and experience to help me educate others!
Cacti: In my experience, cacti are much happier in the filtered shade here in the low desert of the Coachella Valley. Colors are more vibrant and they bloom more profusely, especially the non-native varieties. If you pay attention to how our native barrel and beavertail opuntia grow in the wild, it is frequently tucked in the rocks under creosote or another shrub.
Light Requirements: I have found that in our desert (Sonoran/Colorado) “full sun” plants can take and appreciate the late afternoon filtered sun, especially in the hot summer months.