Carnegiea gigantea, Giant Saguaro

Southwest Desert Flora

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

Cirsium ochrocentrum, Yellowspine Thistle

Atriplex hymenelytra, Desertholly

Desertholly is a warm desert shrub, dioecious with male and female flowers on separate plants. Male flowers yellow to purple. Atriplex hymenelytraDesertholly is a warm desert shrub, dioecious with male and female flowers on separate plants. Female flowers are borne in inflorescences similar to the male flowers. Atriplex hymenelytraDesertholly has greenish to silvery-white holly-like leaves that persist and are alternate along the stem. The leaf margins are toothed and permanently scurfy. Atriplex hymenelytraDesertholly is a drought tolerant warm desert shrub that may exist for years under extreme weather conditions. Atriplex hymenelytraDesertholly are warm desert plants, rounded with many holly-like leaves and without spines or prickles. The stems are erect with many branches that vary from spreading to ascending and with silvery white foliage often contrasting with or blending into surrounding habitat. Atriplex hymenelytraDesertholly prefers dry, sandy or stony soil often found in alluvial fans, hills, washes and slopes. Desertholly is found in the southwestern United States in AZ, CA, NV, UT. It is also native to Baja California. Atriplex hymenelytra

Scientific Name: Atriplex hymenelytra
Common Name: Desertholly

Also Called: Desert Holly, Silver Holly

Family: Chenopodiaceae, Goosefoot Family (now as sub-family Chenopodioideae in the Amaranthaceae Family).
Synonyms: ()

Status: Native

Duration: Perennial

Size: 1 to 5 feet tall and as wide; 2 to 3 feet in Texas.

Growth Form: Shrub; plants with a rounded shape; dioecious; no spines or other armament.

Leaves: Greenish to silvery white, leaves round or oval; evergreen; alternate and with petioles; margins mostly dentate, the surfaces covered with small silvery scales (scurfy).

Flower Color: Yellow to purple-brown; dioecious; fruits a pair of fruiting sessile to short-stalked, round, prominently veined bracteoles surrounding the seeds.

Flowering Season: January to March or April.

Elevation: Below 4,000 feet; Yuma County AZ below 1,000 feet.

Habitat Preferences: Dry, sandy or stony soil, saline soil and hills.

Recorded Range: Atriplex hymenelytra is found in the southwestern United States in AZ, CA, NV and UT. It is also native to northwest Mexico and Baja California.

North America & US County Distribution Map for Atriplex hymenelytra.

U.S. Weed Information: No information available.
Invasive/Noxious Weed Information: No information available.
Wetland Indicator: No information available.

Threatened/Endangered Information: In North America Atriplex hymenelytra is Salvage Restricted in Arizona.

Genus Information: In North America there are over 110 species and 124 accepted taxa overall for Atriplex. Worldwide, The Plant List includes 258 accepted species names and a further 350 scientific names of infraspecific rank for the genus.

In the Southwestern United States: Arizona has 25 species of Atriplex, California has 51 species, Nevada has 27 species, New Mexico has 21 species, Texas has 21 species, Utah has 35 species. All data is approximate and subject to taxonomic changes.

Comments: Atriplex hymenelytra is a warm desert shrub, found in both the Lower Sonoran and Mojave deserts. This species occurs with species of Larrea, Ambrosia, Ephedra and Yucca.

In Southwest Desert Flora also see: Australian Saltbush, Atriplex semibaccata, Four-wing Salt Bush, Atriplex canescens, Griffiths Saltbush, Atriplex torreyi var. griffithsii, Quailbush, Atriplex lentiformis and Wheelscale Saltbush, Atriplex elegans.

The genus Atriplex is from ancient Latin and was applied to the edible oraches (plants in the Chenopodiaceae family). The common name for the genus, "Saltbush" is derived from the plants ability to retain salt in their leaves making them able to thrive in saline soil or alkaline soils.

The species epithet hymenelytra makes reference to Hymen, a mid 16th century late Latin from Greek humèn meaning "membrane"; possibly a reference to the paired fruiting bracteoles surrounding the seeds

Date Profile Completed: 04/13/2018; updated 09/01/2019
Kearney, Thomas H., Peebles, Robert H., 1960, Arizona Flora, University of California Press, Berkley and Los Angeles, California.
U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service on-line database and USGS ITIS search - (accessed 08/28/2019)
The Plant List (2013). Version 1.1. Published on the Internet; (accessed 08/28/2019).
Native Plant Information Network, NPIN (2013). Published on the Internet (accessed 04/12/2018). Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas, Austin, TX.
Elizabeth H. Zacharias 2013, Atriplex hymenelytra, in Jepson Flora Project (eds.) Jepson eFlora, Revision 1,, accessed on September 01, 2019.
Stanley L. Welsh, FNA | Family List | FNA Vol. 4 | Chenopodiaceae | Atriplex 54. Atriplex hymenelytra (Torrey) S. Watson, Proc. Amer. Acad. Arts. 9: 129. 1874.; Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. 1993+. Flora of North America North of Mexico. 16+ vols. New York and Oxford.
SEINet synonyms, scientific names, geographic locations, general information, (accessed 04/12/2018).