Carnegiea gigantea, Giant Saguaro

Southwest Desert Flora

Home to the plants of the Sonoran, Chihuahuan and Mojave Deserts

Cirsium ochrocentrum, Yellowspine Thistle

Enchylaena tomentosa, Ruby-Saltbush

Ruby-Saltbush has white or greenish inconspicuous flowers that are less than 3mm across, flowers are solitary and grow from axillary buds at the base of leaves. Enchylaena tomentosa Ruby-Saltbush has fruits that are flesh-like berries as noted in the photo. The fruits change color from bright green or yellow to bright red or orange. The berries dry black. Enchylaena tomentosa Ruby-Saltbush leaves are light green with small whitish hairs. The leaves are alternate and circular in cross section. Note the leaves are succulent-like. Enchylaena tomentosa Ruby-Saltbush blooms from May to September in Australian and likely so in AZ and CA. The fruits bloom in early to late fall. Enchylaena tomentosa Ruby-Saltbush are native to Australia and are found only in California and rarely in Arizona. Enchylaena tomentosa Ruby-Saltbush is a sub-shrub, rarely a full shrub that grows up to about 2 feet (.6 m) and as wide. Some have been known to grow up to 3 feet (.9 m). The plants are low growing and the branches are many which have short curled hairs. Plant are drought tolerant. Enchylaena tomentosa

Scientific Name: Enchylaena tomentosa
Common Name: Ruby-Saltbush

Also Called: Barrier Saltbush

Family: Amaranthaceae, Pigweed Family - Originally identified in Chenopodiaceae, the Goosefoot Family, now sub-family Chenopodioideae.

Synonyms: ()

Status: Introduced; naturalized in California, extremely rare in Arizona.

Duration: Perennial

Size: 1 or 2 feet tall (.3 - .6 m) by 1 or 2 feet (.3 - .6 m) wide; larger (3 feet by 3 feet (.9 x .9 m))in its native Australia.

Growth Form: Subshrub; many branches, general low growing perennial, grayish, woody or semi-woody, plants procumbent or ascending, vegetation has short curled hairs to shortly villous or glabrous, hairs sometimes glaucous, plant stems pubescent; plants drought tolerant.

Leaves: Green, light green with whitish (tomentose) hairs, alternate, leaves terete or fusiform, slender, round, .25 to .60 inches (6 to 15 mm) long, leaves succulent-like.

Flower Color: White or greenish, inconspicuous, small, less than .11 inches (3mm) across, solitary, flowers from axillary buds at bases of the leaves; unisexual, perianth tube glabrous, lobes glabrous or pubescent, woolly-ciliate; fruits flesh-like berries, fruit change color from bright green or yellow to bright red or orange; fruits drying black.

Flowering Season: May to September in Australian; fruits on one plant may be green, yellow, bluish and showy red at maturity, fruits globose or globular and succulent; plant fruit in the fall in central Arizona.

Elevation: 1,000 to 2,000 feet (330 to 660 m).

Habitat Preferences: Sandy, riparian or semi-wet areas in AZ; In Australia it has a wide climatic, soil and topographic tolerance and is found from coastal areas, sand dunes, clay and saline depressions among other habitat types.

Recorded Range: Ruby-Saltbush is an exotic Amaranth found first in California and now in Arizona.

North America & US County Distribution Map for Enchylaena tomentosa.

U.S. Weed Information: No information available.
Invasive/Noxious Weed Information: No information available.
Threatened/Endangered Information: No information available.

Wetland Indicator: In North America Enchylaena tomentosa has the following wetland designations: Arid West, UPL, Western Mountains, Valleys, and Coast UPL.
UPL = Obligate Upland, almost never occur in wetlands

Genus Information: In North America there is 1 species and 1 accepted taxa overall for Enchylaena. Worldwide, The Plant List includes 2 accepted species names and a further 3 scientific names of infraspecific rank for the genus. Enchylaena tomentosa was first published by Robert Brown in 1810 as a monotypic genus.

There are 2 varieties in Enchylaena tomentosa;
Enchylaena tomentosa var. tomentosa, (whitish hairs);
Enchylaena tomentosa var. glabra (less woolly);

Comments: The plant in the photographs above was taken in September through December at the Tempe Riparian Area, along the Salt River in north Tempe.
According to the literature the mature fruits of Enchylaena tomentosa are eaten raw and described as crisp, salty-sweet andsucculent. However, it should be noted that the leaves contain oxalates and they should not be eaten in large quantity.

Importance to Wildlife, Birds and Livestock
No information for North America. In Australia Enchylaena tomentosa is listed as a "maintenance feed" because not enough of the plants exist as a sole foraging food. It is drought tolerant and is available in drying conditions when other forage is not available. In Victoria, Australia it is eaten by sheep.

Special Value to Native Bees, Butterflies and Insects
No information available.

The genus Enchylaena from the Greek word "enchylos" fleshy or succulent and laina, a cloak, referencing the perianth becoming fleasy when ripe.
The species epithet "tomentosa" is a reference to the tomentose hairs on its foliage.

Enchylaena tomentosa has historically been sought after by Indigenous Australians as a snack food and is still collected today. Indigenous central Australian groups apparently soak the fruits in water and make a sweetened tea. Early settlers were observed harvesting the leaves and eaten as a vegetable after boiling. Major Thomas Mitchell observed children harvested the fruit to make pink decorations.

Date Profile Completed: 12/24/2019
U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service on-line database and USGS ITIS search - (accessed 12/23/2019)
The Plant List (2013). Version 1.1. Published on the Internet; (accessed 12/24/2019).
Barrie Hadlow, ANBG (1986); Autralian National Botanic Gardens; Centre for Australian National Biodiversity Research (CANBR) Enchylaena tomentosa - (accessed 12/23/2019)
Australian Native Plants Society; Enchylaena tomentosa; - (accessed 12/23/2019)
'Enchylaena tomentosa', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 8 August 2019, 05:19 UTC, [accessed 24 December 2019]
Enchylaena tomentosa; Electronic Flora of South Australia species Fact Sheet [accessed 24 December 2019]
SEINet synonyms, scientific names, geographic locations, general information, (accessed 12/24/2019).
Enchylaena tomentosa; Plants For A Future, 1996-2012. (accessed 12/24/2019).
Western Australian Herbarium (1998–). FloraBase—the Western Australian Flora. Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, (accessed 12/24/2019).
Victorian Resoures Online (accessed 12/24/2019).