Shrubs, dioecious, 3-15+ dm, as wide, unarmed. Leaves persistent, alternate, petiolate; blade greenish to silvery white, orbiculate to reniform or oval, 10-40 mm, as wide or wider, prominently dentate, teeth to 10 mm, permanently scurfy. Staminate flowers yellow to purple-brown, in clusters 3-4 mm thick, borne in panicles to 3 cm. Pistillate flowers borne in inflorescences similar to staminate ones. Fruiting bracteoles sessile, rather prominently veined, orbiculate to reniform, strongly compressed, 7-10 × 7-10 mm, thin, united at base, margin entire to crenate, glabrous, lacking processes. Seeds brown, 2 mm wide; radicle sublateral. 2n = 18.
Flowering spring. Warm desert shrub, on dry saline alluvial fans and hills; 80-1200 m; Ariz., Calif., Nev., Utah.
Atriplex hymenelytra occurs with saltbush, Larrea-Ambrosia, ephedra, and yucca. This is a handsome, rounded shrub with silvery white foliage, sometimes contrasting strongly with the peculiar substrates on which it grows. Its relationships to other of the southwestern species are recondite, but possibly it is allied to A. confertifolia, with which C. A. Hanson (1962) suggested an affinity.
FNA 2003, Zacharias 2014 (Jepson)
Common Name: desertholly Duration: Perennial Nativity: Native Lifeform: Shrub General: Dioecious evergreen shrubs, 30-150 cm tall and about as wide, creating a rounded shape; stems unarmed. Leaves: Alternate and petiolate; blades greenish to silvery white, round or oval, 1-4 cm long and just as wide or wider, the margins prominently dentate with teeth up to 1 cm long, and the surfaces covered with small silvery scales (scurfy). Flowers: Male and female flowers on separate plants; staminate flowers yellow to purple-brown, in clusters 3-4 mm thick, these clusters arranged in short panicles to 3 cm long; pistillate flowers in inflorescences similar to staminate ones. Fruits: A pair of fruiting bracteoles surrounds the seed; bracteoles sessile, 1 cm wide, round, prominently veined, strongly compressed, thin, hairless, and united at the base, with entire to roundly lobed margins; seeds brown, 2 mm wide. Ecology: Found on dry, saline alluvial fans and hills, below 4,000 ft (1219 m); flowers in the spring. Distribution: w AZ, se CA, s NV, and sw UT; south to nw MEX. Notes: Atriplex hymenelytra is a warm desert shrub, found in the lower Sonoran and Mojave deserts. It occurs with saltbush (Atriplex canescens), Larrea-Ambrosia, Ephedra, and Yucca. It is a handsome, rounded shrub with silvery white foliage, sometimes contrasting strongly with the peculiar substrates on which it grows. It has been suggested that it is closely related to Atriplex confertifolia, and appears as a larger, unarmed version of that shrub but with deeply lobed, almost holly-like leaves. Ethnobotany: Flowers were used to make a shampoo. Etymology: Atriplex is the ancient Latin name for saltbush, derived from the plant-s Greek name atraphaxes; hymenelytra makes reference to Hymen, the Greek god of marriage often used to note a pairing, and elytron, a sheath or covering, probably referring to the paired fruiting bracteoles surrounding the seed. Synonyms: None Editor: AHazelton 2015