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    Atriplex is an ancient Latin name for a now unknown plant; the name was applied to this genus in modern times by Linnaeus in 1753.
Grayia spinosa

Grayia spinosa. Synonym: Atriplex grayi. (Spiny Hopsage)
Amaranthaceae (Amaranth Family)
(formerly Chenopodiaceae, Goosefoot Family)

Semi-desert. Rocks, openings. Spring.
Hidden Valley Trail, Utah, May 10, 2007.

At first glance this shrub might be taken for its close cousin, Four-Winged Saltbush.  But a careful look shows leaves, seeds pods, and stems to be quite different. Grayia spinosa also is far less common than the ubiquitous Atriplex canescens.  When it does occur, however, Grayia spinosa is showy and can, as the picture at the bottom of this page shows, be abundant.

The plant was first named Chenopodium spinosum by William Hooker in 1834; Christian Moquin-Tandon renamed it Grayia spinosa in 1849; and Collotzi renamed it Atriplex grayi.  Asa Gray, along with his teacher, John Torrey, and his pupil, Sereno Watson, dominated 19th century botany.  (More biographical information about Gray.)

Grayia spinosa

Grayia spinosa

Grayia spinosa. Synonym: Atriplex grayi. (Spiny Hopsage)
Amaranthaceae (Amaranth Family)
(formerly Chenopodiaceae, Goosefoot Family)

Semi-desert. Rocks, openings. Spring.
Hidden Valley Trail, Utah, May 10, 2007 and Lower Cross Canyon, Utah, May 12, 2013.

Maturing seed pods are green, yellow, and pink.

Leaves are typically oval and about twice as long as wide.  But notice the new growth in the top photograph at left next to the ruler.  These spring leaves are three or four times as long as they are wide and are two or three times as long as last year's leaves.  Moisture in the winter and spring of 2006-2007 was actually below normal but was very heavy in the early fall and then was evenly spaced through the winter.  These conditions produced excellent growth for many plants, including Atriplex grayi which had grown six to ten inches by early May.  In some cases this growth exceeded the growth of the previous ten years. 

Grayia spinosa

Grayia spinosa

Grayia spinosa

Grayia spinosa. Synonym: Atriplex grayi. (Spiny Hopsage)
Amaranthaceae (Amaranth Family)
(formerly Chenopodiaceae, Goosefoot Family)

Semi-desert. Rocks, openings. Spring.
Hidden Valley Trail, Utah, May 10, 2007 and October 6, 2009.

Seed coverings and wings can be yellow to pink.

The middle photograph at left shows the lush green leaves of Atriplex grayi. The white edging to some leaves might at first appear to be small hairs, but a hand lens and a taste on the tip of your tongue will reveal salt. 

Although spiny stems show here and there in the leafy shrubs (middle photograph at left), it takes a leafless shrub to really show how spiny Atriplex grayi truly is.

Grayia spinosa

Grayia spinosa

Grayia spinosa. Synonym: Atriplex grayi. (Spiny Hopsage)
Amaranthaceae (Amaranth Family)
(formerly Chenopodiaceae, Goosefoot Family)

Semi-desert. Rocks, openings. Spring.
Hidden Valley Trail, Utah, May 10, 2007 and
Lower Cross Canyon, Utah, May 12, 2013.

Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Eradicated
Questionable presence

Range map for Grayia spinosa