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Aquatic and Wetland Vascular Plants of the Northern Great Plains

12. Chenopodiaceae, the Goosefoot Family

1. Atriplex L.

1. Atriplex subspicata (Nutt.) Rydb. -- Spearscale


Monoecious to semidioecious, taprooted annual (1)2-10 dm tall; stems erect to decumbent, simple to freely branched. Leaves alternate, or the lowest ones often opposite, petioled or becoming sessile upward in the inflorescence; blades lanceolate to trullate or deltate, often hastate, mostly 2-8 cm long, 0.5-6 cm wide, entire to sinuate-dentate, somewhat grayish-farinose when young, becoming dull green and glabrate with age; petioles mostly 5-30 mm long. Flowers imperfect, minute, greenish, the male and female flowers usually mixed in glomerules which are borne in terminal and axillary spikes, the spikes simple or branched, ebracteate or only sparsely bracteate in the lower portion; male flowers with a deeply 5-lobed perianth, ca. 1 mm wide, stamens 5; female flowers lacking a perianth, subtended by 2 sepaloid bracteoles, these expanding as the fruit matures and enclosing it, ovate-deltate, 2-5 mm long and about as wide, sometimes hastate, connate toward the base, smooth or tuberculate on the back. Fruit with a transparent membranous pericarp adherent to the seed, the seed oriented vertically between the bracteoles, dark brown to black, lenticular, 1.5-2.5 mm in diameter. Aug--early Oct. Shores, stream banks and flats, usually where alkaline or saline; also disturbed places; common; (Newf. to B.C. s to NC, OH, IN, MO, TX, AZ and CA). A. patula L., A. hastata L.

A. subspicata is a highly variable species throughout its range, and many species and varieties have been described on the basis of variations in growth habit and leaf shape.

GIF- Distribution Map

Map key


Return to Family -- Chenopodiaceae - The Goosefoot Family
Next Species -- Chenopodium glaucum L. -- Oak-leaved goosefoot

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