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Atriplex lentiformis

About Big Saltbush (Atriplex lentiformis) Atriplex lentiformis is a species in the Chenopodiaceae (Goosefoot) family known by the common names Big Saltbush and Quail Bush. It is native to the southwestern United States and northern Mexico, where it grows in habitats with saline or alkaline soils, such as salt flats and dry lake beds, coastline, and desert scrub. It can also be found in nonsaline soils on riverbanks and woodland. This is a spreading shrub reaching one to three meters in height and generally more in width. It is highly branched and bears scaly or scurfy gray-green leaves up to 5 centimeters long and often toothed or rippled along the edges. This species may be dioecious or monoecious, with individuals bearing either male or female flowers, or sometimes both. Male flowers are borne in narrow flower clusters up to 50 centimeters long, while flower clusters of female flowers are smaller and more compact. Plants can change from monoecious to dioecious and from male to female and vice versa. This saltbush species and Atriplex canescens are the host plants for the Saltbush Sootywing and Pygmy Blue butterflies. This plant is used to revegetate riparian habitat in its native range. In the Lower Colorado River Valley and Gila River valleys of southwestern Arizona, southeastern California, and northwestern Mexico Big Saltbush can reach 3.5 meters (11 feet) in advantageous growing locales. The maximum height occurs where a groundwater source supplies virtually unlimited moisture; soil conditions are optimal for the quailbush, and other plants lose in competition, though arrowweed, tamarisk, and tumbleweeds are competitors; also mesquite.
Plant Description
Plant Type

Max. Height
3.3 - 10 ft (1 - 3 m)

Max. Width
10 ft (3.0 m)

Upright, Mounding, Rounded

Growth Rate
Fast, Moderate


Flower Color
Yellow, Brown

Flowering Season

Native Status

Natural Setting
Site Type
Alkaline or saline washes, dry lakes, alkali sinks, and shadscale scrub; also sometimes found in grasslands or coastal sage scrub


Elevation ?
-230' - 6825'

Annual Precip. ?
2.5" - 38.1"

Summer Precip. ?
0.12" - 1.77"

Coldest Month ?
33.8° F - 63.3° F

Hottest Month ?
62.6° F - 89.6° F

Humidity ?
0.91 vpd - 43.88 vpd

Soil Description
Tolerates a variety of soils, especially alkaline

Soil PH
7.0 - 9.0

Soil Toxicity Tolerance
Tolerates Saline Soil, Tolerates Sodic Soil


Cold Tolerance(° F)
Tolerates cold to 15° F

Companion Plants
This plant is not often used in small residential gardens but is very useful on larger acreage and in restoration projects, especially where the soil is alkaline and there is subsurface water. Use with native grasses such as Deer Grass (Muhlenbergia sp.), Arrow Weed (Pluchea sericea), Mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa or pubescens), Desert Thorn (Lycium sp.), Alkali Goldenbush (Isocoma acradenia), and willows (Salix sp.).

Wildlife Attracted
Various butterflies and birds, especially quail and thrashers

Landscaping Information
Ease of Care
Very Easy

Water Requirement ?
Extremely Low
Very Low
Moderate - High

Moderately Popular

Max. Summer Water ?
1x/month, 2x/month
No Summer Water
Keep moist


Common uses
Bank Stabilization, Hedges, Butterfly Gardens, Bird Gardens

Other Names
Common Names
Quail Bush, Quailbush

Sources include: Wikipedia. All text shown in the "About" section of these pages is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. Plant observation data provided by the participants of the California Consortia of Herbaria, Sunset information provided by Jepson Flora Project. Propogation from seed information provided by the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden from "Seed Propagation of Native California Plants" by Dara E. Emery. Sources of plant photos include CalPhotos, Wikimedia Commons, and independent plant photographers who have agreed to share their images with Calscape. Other general sources of information include Calflora, CNPS Manual of Vegetation Online, Jepson Flora Project, Las Pilitas, Theodore Payne, Tree of Life, The Xerces Society, and information provided by CNPS volunteer editors, with special thanks to Don Rideout. Climate data used in creation of plant range maps is from PRISM Climate Group, Oregon State University, using 30 year (1981-2010) annual "normals" at an 800 meter spatial resolution.

Links:   Jepson eFlora Taxon Page  CalPhotos  Wikipedia  Calflora

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