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Four-wing saltbush

Scientific Name:
Atriplex canescens
Native Name(s):
  1. Northern Paiute: sunu (Fowler 1989)


Atriplex canescens is an erect woody shrub that grows 60 to 120 cm tall. Branches are short, scurfy twigs with elongated grayish-green leaves. Inconspicuous flowers become pale green fruits each with four wings, emanating from the center. Achenes have four rough ridges running longitudinally where papery fruit bracts once attached. Fruits of this species range in size from 4 to 6 mm in length and 1 to 3 mm in width. This species blooms from June to August.

Identification Tips

Atriplex canescens is distinguished by its four-winged fruits, whereas Atriplex confertifolia has two-winged fruits. 

Starch granules

Atriplex spp. starch granules are very small, ranging in size from 1-3 microns. At this size, they are difficult to detect without staining, thus there are no images included in this database. Starch granules are monomorphic, irregular spheres, sometimes faceted with clear bright crosses. When heated, granules tend to clump together, forming small aggregates.


Atriplex canescens grows on dry slopes, flats, and washes below 2140 m.


This species is distributed across the western United States. 


The Northern Paiute consumed several species of Atriplex seeds. They were harvested in late summer, ground and boiled to be consumed.

As food

"The concentration of resources at Malheur Lake fostered social gatherings.  Our consultants among the Burns Paiute confirm Whiting's (1950) statements that large numbers of people congregated there in late summer to harvest waadaseeds, to fish, and to hunt migratory fowl.  Other seeds also were harvested there, including saltbrush, giant wild rye, Indian rice grass, and blazing star." (Couture et al. 1986:154)

Distribution Map: