A member of the Amaranth Family, boraxweed (Nitrophila occidentalis) is a native perennial growing in moist alkaline soils between 1,000 and 6,500 feet in elevation. It can be found in Oregon, Washington, California, Arizona, Utah, Nevada and Northern Mexico. Some sources list boraxweed as invasive, however, it probably does not have much economic impact on the alkali flats and salt pans where it grows.

Boraxweed is low-growing and arises from a deep-seated, rhizomatus taproot. The stems have paired branches. The sessile (no stalk) leaves are opposite, fleshy, linear and pointed.

Flowers occur in the boraxweed leaf axils either singly or in groups of three. Boraxweed flowers have two pointed bracts, 5 pinkish to white sepals and 5 stamens. There are no petals.

A utricle (fruit that does not split open and contains one seed) is concealed by the persistent sepals. Boraxweed seeds are black or brown.

Other common names for boraxweed include alkalai weed, western niterwort and western nitrophila.

The genus name, Nitrophila, derives from the Greek and means “alkalai loving” – nitron refers to carbonate of soda or alkalai and philos translates as love. The species name, occidentalis, is Latin for west.

These specimens were photographed in June on the alkalai flats along CA Highway 299 east of Cedarville CA near the Nevada border (Modoc County CA).


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