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Atriplex halimus - L.                
                 
Common Name Sea Orach, Saltbush
Family Chenopodiaceae
Synonyms
Known Hazards No member of this genus contains any toxins, all have more or less edible leaves. However, if grown with artificial fertilizers, they may concentrate harmful amounts of nitrates in their leaves.
Habitats Coastal sands by the sea[1, 100]. Saltmarshes[200].
Range S. Europe. Occasionally naturalized in Britain[200].
Edibility Rating  
Medicinal Rating  
Care
Frost Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun

Summary       

Physical Characteristics       
 icon of manicon of shrub
Atriplex halimus is an evergreen Shrub growing to 2 m (6ft) by 3 m (9ft) at a medium rate.
It is hardy to zone 8 and is not frost tender. It is in leaf 12-Jan It is in flower in July. The flowers are monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant) and are pollinated by Wind.

USDA hardiness zone : Coming soon


Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline and saline soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought. The plant can tolerate maritime exposure.

Atriplex halimus Sea Orach, Saltbush


(c) 2010 Ken Fern & Plants For A Future
Atriplex halimus Sea Orach, Saltbush
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Brote_de_atriplex_halimus.jpg
   
Habitats       
Woodland Garden Sunny Edge; Hedge;
Edible Uses                                         
Edible Parts: Leaves;  Manna;  Seed.
Edible Uses:

Leaves - raw or cooked[2, 46, 61, 177]. Some forms are eaten raw[177]. A famine food according to one report[177], but in our opinion it is far from being a famine food, in fact this is one of the more popular crops being grown at 'The Field' at present (1993)[K]. The leaves have a very nice rather salty flavour, they go well in salads or can be cooked like spinach[K]. When lightly steamed, the leaves retain their crispness and are a delicious spinach substitute[K]. The leaves retain their salty flavour even when grow inland in non-salty soils[K]. The leaves can be used at any time of the year though winter harvesting must be light because the plant is not growing much at this time[K]. Seed - cooked[85]. It can be ground into a meal and used as a thickener in soups, or mixed with cereals in making bread. The seed is small and fiddly. The plant is said to yield an edible manna[183].
Medicinal Uses


Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Carminative.

The shoots are burnt to produce an antacid powder[238].
Other Uses
Hedge;  Hedge;  Soap making;  Soil reclamation.

The ash from the burnt plant is used as the alkali in making soap[46, 61]. The plant makes a superb wind-resistant low-growing hedge that can be allowed to grow untrimmed or can be trimmed[K]. It is especially valuable in maritime areas, succeeding right on the coast, though can also be used inland[75, 182, K]. The plant is extremely tolerant of pruning and can regrow even when cut back into old wood[K]. The plant draws salt out of the soil and so has been used in soil-reclamation projects to de-salinate the soil[K].
Cultivation details                                         
An easily grown plant, it succeeds in full sun in any well-drained but not too fertile soil[182, 200]. Tolerates saline and very alkaline soils[200]. Succeeds in dry soils including pure sands[49, 75]. Plants will grow in semi-shade, though they will soon become leggy in such a position, they are really best in full sun[K]. A very wind hardy plant, it is resistant to salt-laden gales[75], and can be used as a hedge in maritime areas[182]. Plants dislike very wet climates[K]. This species is not hardy in the colder areas of the country, it tolerates temperatures down to between -5 and -10°c[200]. This plant is hardier than the foregoing report suggests, it grows well at Hilliers Arboretum in Hampshire where temperatures can fall somewhat lower than -10°c[K]. Plants can be damaged by severe frosts but they soon recover[11]. Resents root disturbance when large[134]. Plants are apt to succumb to winter wet when grown on heavy or rich soils[182].
                                                                                 
Propagation                                         
Seed - sow April/May in a cold frame in a compost of peat and sand. The seed usually germinates in 1 - 3 weeks at 13°c[134]. Pot up the seedlings when still small into individual pots, grow on in a greenhouse for the first winter and plant out in late spring or early summer after the last expected frosts. The seed is seldom formed[200]. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, July/August in a frame. Very easy. Pot up as soon as they start to root (about 3 weeks) and plant out in their permanent positions late in the following spring[K]. Cuttings of mature wood of the current season's growth, November/December in a frame. Very easy. Pot up in early spring and plant out in their permanent position in early summer[K].
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Expert comment                                         
 
      
Author                                         
L.
                                                                                 
Botanical References                                         
11200
                                                                                 
Links / References                                         

  [K] Ken Fern Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.

[1]F. Chittendon. RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956
Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaces in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]).
[2]Hedrick. U. P. Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World.
Lots of entries, quite a lot of information in most entries and references.
[11]Bean. W. Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement.
A classic with a wealth of information on the plants, but poor on pictures.
[46]Uphof. J. C. Th. Dictionary of Economic Plants.
An excellent and very comprehensive guide but it only gives very short descriptions of the uses without any details of how to utilize the plants. Not for the casual reader.
[49]Arnold-Forster. Shrubs for the Milder Counties.
Trees and shrubs that grow well in Cornwall and other mild areas of Britain. Fairly good, a standard reference book.
[61]Usher. G. A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man.
Forget the sexist title, this is one of the best books on the subject. Lists a very extensive range of useful plants from around the world with very brief details of the uses. Not for the casual reader.
[75]Rosewarne experimental horticultural station. Shelter Trees and Hedges.
A small booklet packed with information on trees and shrubs for hedging and shelterbelts in exposed maritime areas.
[85]Harrington. H. D. Edible Native Plants of the Rocky Mountains.
A superb book. Very readable, it gives the results of the authors experiments with native edible plants.
[100]Polunin. O. Flowers of Europe - A Field Guide.
An excellent and well illustrated pocket guide for those with very large pockets. Also gives some details on plant uses.
[134]Rice. G. (Editor) Growing from Seed. Volume 2.
Very readable magazine with lots of information on propagation. An interesting article on Ensete ventricosum.
[177]Kunkel. G. Plants for Human Consumption.
An excellent book for the dedicated. A comprehensive listing of latin names with a brief list of edible parts.
[182]Thomas. G. S. Ornamental Shrubs, Climbers and Bamboos.
Contains a wide range of plants with a brief description, mainly of their ornamental value but also usually of cultivation details and varieties.
[183]Facciola. S. Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants.
Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.
[200]Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
[238]Bown. D. Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.

Readers comment                                         
 
Elizabeth H.
meron Thu Aug 10 2006
i planted atriplex halimus to know the its resistance to salinity in the green house but it didn't grow in the saline soil. what do u think the reason could be
Elizabeth H.
Madeleine Fletcher Sat Sep 12 2009
I would like to try out this plant in my edible garden in Maryland, US. Does anyone know a source or can send me a few cuttings, preferably rooted? I will pay for it. Thank you! Madeleine
Trevor P.
Jun 18 2012 12:00AM
Many atriplex varieties, including a. nummularia and a. halimus have significant oxalate content that makes them toxic if eaten raw and in quantity. Cooking in water removes most of this, but when grazed by animals, as it is in some dry areas, the risk of harm is considerable. The statement you've posted for both varieties, that "No member of this genus contains any toxins" is not quite accurate. This study is typical of many looking at saltbush as forage: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4004041
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