Common Names: Chamise, chamize, chamiso,
white greasewood, saltsage, fourwing shadscale, bushy atriplex
Description: Fourwing saltbush is deciduous to
evergreen, depending on climate. Its much-branched stems are stout with
whitish bark. Mature plants range from 1 to over 8 feet in height, depending
on the soil and climate. Its leaves are simple, alternate, linear to
narrowly oblong covered with fine whitish hairs and ½ to 2 inches long. Its
root system is branched and commonly very deep (to 20 feet) when soil depth
Male and female flowers are commonly on separate plants. Male
flowers are red to yellow and form dense spikes at the ends of the branches.
The female flowers are axillary and nondescript. Fourwing saltbush plants
can exhibit male and female parts in one flower. The seed is contained in
a dull yellow when ripe and may remain attached to the plant throughout
Location: Fourwing saltbush is a widely
distributed shrub on rangelands in the western United States including the
Intermountain, Great Basin, and Great Plains regions (see map). Its natural
range extends from below sea level to above 8,000 feet elevation. Land
owners and agencies use fourwing saltbush for reclamation of disturbed sites
Fresh roots can be boiled with a little salt and drunk for stomach
pain and as a laxative. Leaves and young shoots can be added to soups and
stews. Soapy lather from leaves can be used for itching and rashes from
chickenpox or measles. Fresh leaf or a poultice of fresh or dried flowers or
roots can be applied to ant bites and bee stings.
Native Americans used
ashes from the leaves as a substitute for baking powder.
Seed generally ripens in late August and September and can be harvested
from mid September through December. The seeds can be ground into meal. Seed
yields may range from 200 to 400 pounds per acre.
interest: Saltbush is high in carotene and averages about four
percent digestible protein. The leaves may be as high as 18 percent total
protein. It is important for both wildlife and domestic animals.
blossoms and twigs can make a yellow dye.