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Watson's orach, Watson's saltbush

Habit Herbs, annual. Herbs, dioecious, prostrate or decumbent, 2–10 dm.
Stems

erect, ascending, or procumbent, much branched, obtusely angled, 1–6 dm, stout, scurfy when young.

forming tangled mats 1–3 m across, woody at base, white scurfy.

Leaves

alternate or proximalmost opposite or subopposite;

petiole to 1.5 cm or sessile;

blade paler abaxially, oblong or oval, lanceolate, or elliptic to broadly obovate or narrowly oblong, 10–40(–60) × (2–)4–20 mm, base rounded to cuneate, margin entire or undulate, rarely with 1–2 teeth, apex rounded to acute, mucronate, thin, often densely white scurfy beneath, grayish green and glabrate above.

numerous, mostly opposite;

blade broadly elliptic to ovate, 8–25 mm, often surpassing internodes, thick and fleshy (when fresh), margin entire, apex acutish, white scurfy.

Staminate flowers

in large glomerules in naked, interrupted terminal spikes;

calyx 5-cleft.

Pistillate flowers

fascicled in axils.

in small, axillary clusters.

Seeds

reddish brown, 2 mm.

light brown, 1–1.5 mm.

Staminate

glomerules terminal or in dense or interrupted, terminal or axillary, naked spikes or shortly branched panicles.

Fruiting

bracteoles subsessile or with stipes to 1 mm, cuneate-orbiculate, compressed, 4.5–7 × 3.5–5.6 mm, typically longer than wide, united to middle, apex rounded, 3–5-toothed, teeth subequal, sides irregularly tuberculate or with 2 lateral dentate crests, rarely not appendaged.

bracteoles sessile or short stipitate, ovate to rhombic, united to beyond middle, 4–8 mm, margin entire to erose, faces plane.

2n

= 18.

Atriplex mucronata

Atriplex watsonii

Phenology Flowering summer–fall. Flowering spring–fall.
Habitat Sandy seashores, salt marshes Coastal and insular bluffs, beaches, strands, salt marshes, sage scrub, with saltgrass and other salt-tolerant species
Elevation 0 m (0 ft) 0-100 m (0-300 ft)
Distribution
from FNA
AL; FL; LA; MA; MD; MS; NC; NH; NJ; TX; VA
[BONAP county map]
from FNA
CA; Mexico (Baja California)
[WildflowerSearch map]
[BONAP county map]
Discussion

Problems with prior applications of the name Atriplex mucronata lie in the mistaken determination of the place of publication as Amer. Monthly Mag. & Crit. Rev. 2: 176. 1818 (where the name is only mentioned), instead of 2: 119. 1817 (where accompanied by a description and notes). H. M. Hall and F. E. Clements (1923) evidently relied on P. C. Standley’s (1916) interpretation, which indicated the wrong citation (see also A. dioica Rafinesque as an identical example). Hall and Clements applied the name mucronata to their interpretation of A. patula subsp. hastata or to A. hastata (i.e., to A. prostrata according to this treatment).

The treatment of Obione by C. H. B. A. Moquin-Tandon (1849) included “A. mucronata Rafin.!” as a synonym of O. arenaria. Possibly a sheet in the Prodromus herbarium at Geneva was the basis for that decision. It has two mounted specimens, one labeled A. arenaria Nuttall, collected by Nuttall in “N. Jersey, 1826,” and a second labeled “Atriplex mucronata Rafinesque (A. arenaria Nuttall, N. Jersey) Maritime NY, Rafinesque 1819.” From that information (although the year is 1819, not 1817), and from the description of the taxon, it seems clear that A. arenaria Nuttall is a later synonym of A. mucronata Rafinesque by at least half a year.

H. A. Gleason and A. Cronquist (1991) indicated that this taxon, by whatever name, is “perhaps better treated as a variety of the more tropical Atriplex pentandra (Jacquin) Standley, but the proper nomenclatural combination not yet made.” The present writer agrees with that conclusion, but such subjugation might indicate further contraction into the species of additional closely related taxa, e.g., A. wrightii, which is clearly closely allied as well.

Plants from the coastal states from New England south to New Jersey are much alike and seldom, if ever, display prominent, terminal, naked spikes or panicles with beadlike glomerules of staminate flowers. Plants from Florida westward sometimes have such staminate spikes or panicles.

Specimens from Florida and some from Texas can be distinguished from Atriplex pentandra only with difficulty, especially those individuals with entire leaves. However, the fruiting bracteole length-width ratio and overall shape, with some allowance for overlap, can serve to distinguish most specimens; those of A. mucronata are proportionately longer than broad and, on average, larger.

(Discussion copyrighted by Flora of North America; reprinted with permission.)

Atriplex watsonii is a sprawling plant that exhibits much variation in leaf size, as attested in the clearly staminate type collection, Palmer 334, wherein the range in size is from 5–25 × 2.5–11 mm wide. Although typically placed adjacent to A. matamorensis, the other dioecious perennial, the two taxa are probably not closely allied. The broader-leaved phases simulate closely A. leucophylla, with which it is sometimes confused, and perhaps the relationship lies in that direction, but it closely simulates A. californica, with which it is probably most closely allied.

(Discussion copyrighted by Flora of North America; reprinted with permission.)

Source FNA vol. 4, p. 362. FNA vol. 4, p. 367.
Parent taxa Chenopodiaceae > Atriplex > subg. Obione > sect. Obione > subsect. Arenariae Chenopodiaceae > Atriplex > subg. Obione > sect. Obione > subsect. Californicae
Sibling taxa
A. acanthocarpa, A. amnicola, A. argentea, A. californica, A. canescens, A. confertifolia, A. cordulata, A. coronata, A. corrugata, A. coulteri, A. covillei, A. dioica, A. elegans, A. fruticulosa, A. gardneri, A. garrettii, A. glabriuscula, A. gmelinii, A. graciliflora, A. heterosperma, A. holocarpa, A. hortensis, A. hymenelytra, A. joaquiniana, A. klebergorum, A. laciniata, A. lentiformis, A. leucophylla, A. lindleyi, A. linearis, A. littoralis, A. matamorensis, A. nudicaulis, A. nummularia, A. oblongifolia, A. obovata, A. pacifica, A. parishii, A. parryi, A. patula, A. pentandra, A. phyllostegia, A. pleiantha, A. polycarpa, A. powellii, A. prostrata, A. pusilla, A. rosea, A. saccaria, A. semibaccata, A. serenana, A. spinifera, A. suberecta, A. suckleyi, A. tatarica, A. torreyi, A. truncata, A. tularensis, A. watsonii, A. wolfii, A. wrightii
A. acanthocarpa, A. amnicola, A. argentea, A. californica, A. canescens, A. confertifolia, A. cordulata, A. coronata, A. corrugata, A. coulteri, A. covillei, A. dioica, A. elegans, A. fruticulosa, A. gardneri, A. garrettii, A. glabriuscula, A. gmelinii, A. graciliflora, A. heterosperma, A. holocarpa, A. hortensis, A. hymenelytra, A. joaquiniana, A. klebergorum, A. laciniata, A. lentiformis, A. leucophylla, A. lindleyi, A. linearis, A. littoralis, A. matamorensis, A. mucronata, A. nudicaulis, A. nummularia, A. oblongifolia, A. obovata, A. pacifica, A. parishii, A. parryi, A. patula, A. pentandra, A. phyllostegia, A. pleiantha, A. polycarpa, A. powellii, A. prostrata, A. pusilla, A. rosea, A. saccaria, A. semibaccata, A. serenana, A. spinifera, A. suberecta, A. suckleyi, A. tatarica, A. torreyi, A. truncata, A. tularensis, A. wolfii, A. wrightii
Synonyms A. arenaria, A. cristata var. arenaria, A. pentandra subsp. arenaria A. decumbens
Name authority Rafinesque: Amer. Monthly Mag. & Crit. Rev. 2(2): 119. (1817) A. Nelson ex Abrams: Fl. Los Angeles, 128. (1904)
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