A member of the Goosefoot Family (Chenopodiaceae), beach saltbush (Atriplex leucophylla) inhabits beach dunes and other sandy areas along the coastal strand of California and Oregon below about 200 feet. Even though it occurs along the coast, this salt-tolerant, native perennial can be drought tolerant.
A sprawling plant, beach saltbush has long, branching reddish stems. The grey-greenish, evergreen leaves are alternate, ovate and sessile (lacking stalks). The entire plant is scarfy, i.e. covered with white bran-like scales.
The inflorescences are small spikes or clusters containing both male and female flowers, a monoecious plant. The inflorescences of beach saltbush are either terminal or originate in leaf axils. The yellowish staminate flowers have 5 stamens and no bracts. Pistillate flowers are a pair of spongy bracts surrounding a two-styled ovary. The flowers often are inconspicuous against the whitish foliage because they are small and light-colored. Beach saltbush has a long flowering period from April to October.
The red-brown seeds are enclosed in the persistent bracts. Beach saltbush are an important source of seeds for birds.
Atriplex, the genus, is the ancient Latin name for some members of this plant group. The species designation, leucophylla, means “white-leaved”. Sea scale and white orache are also common names for A leucophylla.
These beach saltbush specimens were photographed in June and October along the rocky shore directly to the west of Crescent City CA (Del Norte County).