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1839 - Gov. Juan B. Alvarado gives most of SCV to Mexican Army Lt. Antonio del Valle. [story]


Back to Nature | Commentary by Mari Carbajal
| Thursday, Nov 26, 2015

maricarbajal I’ve lived in Agua Dulce for more than 23 years. It never surprises me when I’m driving through various areas of the high desert and see a plant or an animal that I’ve never seen before.

Last year while driving around, I noticed an unusual plant growing on the roadsides in Acton. It looked just like hops (a grain used to make beer). I asked people over and over again what this plant might be. It was stunning and seemed to be a member of the chaparral group. But no one was able to answer my question.

A year later, I noticed twice the amount of this bush around fields in Acton. I took a sprig of the bush to a variety of folks in hopes of being able to identify it. Finally, one day I got a lead. A fellow docent from Placerita Canyon Nature Center had been hiking in Santa Clarita and saw the plant I was questioning. He went to the trail maintenance lead at Placerita Nature Center and he was able to identify it as “four-winged salt bush.” I found that its name is derived from the four-winged shapes of the plant’s seedpod.

Never hearing about this plant before had me extremely inquisitive. I had to know. In doing research, I found many interesting facts about the plant.

Late-FallThis plant can have only female seeds, or male seeds, or sometimes both. It is “Atriplex canescens,” also known as cattle saltbush, allscale, cattle spinach, and a multitude of other nicknames. Also known as “desert saltbush,” this bush plays a very important role in our ecosystem.

The plant is primarily used as an erosion control plant for mismanaged rangelands, and abandoned cropland.

Desert saltbush provides cover for Gambel’s quail, and good quality forage for deer, cattle, sheep and goats.

The bush itself is a perennial and can grow approximately 3 to 6 feet tall. Both male and female flowers are borne on separate plants, and produce pale brown seeds.

bush in summerThe plant flowers from May to August and the fruit ripens from October to December, with the seeds dispersing from November to May.

The desert saltbush is found on alkaline plains and sometimes on rocky or gravelly slopes in the desert or grasslands. Saltbush cohabitates along with creosote bush, shade scale and sagebrush. It grows in soil that is most unsuitable for most other species.

The root system of this plant has a taproot and small feeder roots that occupy the upper layers of soil. Roots often grow to 20 feet underground when obstructions are not preventing their growth. This plant has been found to live over 100 years when undisturbed. Being a “drought” resistant plant, it adapts well to the desert climate throughout the Southwest. Since the saltbush contains amounts of “salt” in its leaves, it is an ideal specimen to plant since it’s somewhat “fire resistant” compared to other chaparral.

Sprig of bushThis species of chaparral may not be the most recognized plant, but it certainly has played an important role in the desert community. The leaves, now in fall, are turning a shade of orange, but they still have sprigs of green as well.

I encourage you to go out into the hills and find this amazing, beautiful species.

 

Mari Carbajal is a docent-naturalist at the Placerita Canyon Nature Center.

 

 

 

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2 Comments

  1. This,is,good to know, thank you for passing on the knowledgeable points.

  2. – thanks for the great info Mari !

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