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Spiny Saltbush, Shadscale Saltbrush, Round-leaf Saltbush, Hop-sage, Sheep Fat
Atriplex confertifolia


Spiny saltbush is widespread in eroded alkaline desert soils from Mexico to North Dakota, but in Texas it is uncommon, found only in a few sites in the Panhandle. It has small, round, gray-green leaves that are drought- and cold-deciduous, and a naturally rounded, compact shape. The tips of the stems and twigs have spines, and when the leaves are bruised they have a fishy smell, hence the name shadscale. It is dioecious, meaning that male and female flowers occur on separate plants. In the fall, the clusters of two-winged bracts surrounding the seeds often turn pink or red as they age. Shadscale can survive extremes of temperatures in very dry and moderately saline soils, and it is a nutritious, although spiny, browse for livestock.

Plant Habit or Use: small shrub

Exposure: sun

Flower Color: inconspicuous, not ornamental

Blooming Period: summer

Fruit Characteristics: two-winged capsule

Height: 1 1/2 to 3 feet

Width: 2 to 3 feet

Plant Character: semievergreen

Heat Tolerance: very high

Water Requirements:

Soil Requirements: alkaline

USDA Hardiness Zone: 3

Additional Comments:

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