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      Anyone who has pushed through a scratching maze of Greasewood (Sarcobatus vermiculatus) knows its meshed branches and flesh-tearing spines. Even Meriwether Lewis tangled with Greasewood, and, in fact, he was the first to collect the plant for science  --  in Montana in 1806.  Lewis wrote of it: 

There is another growth that begins now to make its appearance in the bottom lands and is becoming extremely troublesome; it is a shrub which rises to the hight of from two to four feet, much branched, the bark of the trunk somewhat rough hard and of light grey colour; the wood is firm and stif, the branches beset with a great number of long, sharp, strong, woody looking thorns; the leaf is about or an inch long, and an inch wide, it is obtuse, absolutely entire, veinless fleshy and gibbose; has no perceptible taste or smell, and no anamal appears to eat it. By way of designating when I mention it hereafter I shall call it the fleshey leafed thorn.

Sarcobatus vermiculatus 

Sarcobatus vermiculatus (Greasewood)
Chenopodiaceae (Goosefoot Family)

Semi-desert.  Shrublands, openings.  Spring, summer.
Canyon of the Ancients National Monument, April 6, 2005.

Sarcobatus vermiculatus is a tall, spreading shrub found in abundance throughout the lower elevations of the Four Corners area. Its leaves are a rich green and somewhat succulent (the Greek, "sarco"); older stems are dark, younger are quite light; spines abound. Male and female flowers are separate but found on each bush (thus it is called "monoecious"). 

The plant is found in extensive stands on hot, dry areas on dense soils.

The Greek "batos" means "a bramble" and "vermiculatus" is Latin for "worm eaten". 

 

Sarcobatus vermiculatus 

Sarcobatus vermiculatus (Greasewood)
Chenopodiaceae (Goosefoot Family)

Semi-desert.  Shrublands, openings.  Spring, summer.
Canyon of the Ancients National Monument, April 6, 2005.

You can see why Meriwether Lewis found the thorns so "extremely troublesome".

Sarcobatus vermiculatus 

Sarcobatus vermiculatus (Greasewood)
Chenopodiaceae (Goosefoot Family)

Semi-desert.  Shrublands, openings.  Spring, summer.
Near the Gunnison River, May 22, 2007.

Female flowers are enclosed in cone-like formations.  Male flowers (next photograph) are fewer and on the same shrub.

Sarcobatus vermiculatus

Sarcobatus vermiculatus 

Sarcobatus vermiculatus (Greasewood)
Chenopodiaceae (Goosefoot Family)

Semi-desert.  Shrublands, openings.  Spring, summer.
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, September 10, 2010 and Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness, New Mexico, October 8, 2007.

Seed pods in the first photograph are still fleshy and somewhat green. In the lower left corner of the first photograph, male pollen chains are still evident.

When fully ripened, as in the second photograph, seed pods could easily be confused with the seed pods of Atriplex canescens.

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 Sarcobatus vermiculatus