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Grey Sage Brush (Atriplex canescens)

Common Name Latin Name Plant Family
Grey Sage Brush
Atriplex canescens

A good hedge in maritime areas, it responds well to trimming[K].

The leaves and stems were burnt by the Hopi Indians and the alkaline ash used to maintain the blue colour when cooking blue corn[216].

A yellow dye is obtained from the leaves and stems[257].

The leaves can be made into a soapy lather and used as a hair wash[257].

The plant has fire-retardant properties and can be used for barrier plantings to control bush fires[200].

  • Medicinal Use

    The leaves can be made into a soapy lather and used as a wash on itches and rashes such as chickenpox[257]. A poultice of the crushed leaves can be applied to ant bites to reduce the pain and swelling[257].

  • Edible Use

    Leaves – cooked or raw[85, 94. A very acceptable taste with a salty tang[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 of year[K].

    Seed – cooked[46, 61]. Ground into a powder, mixed with cereals and used in making cakes etc or used as a pi–ole[94, 95, 183]. It is small and very fiddly to utilize[K]. The ground up seed can also be mixed with water and drunk as a refreshing beverage[183].

    The burnt green herb yields culinary ashes high in minerals and these are used by the Hopi Indians to enhance the colour of blue corn products[183, 257]. The ashes can be used like baking soda[257].

  • Cautionary Notes

    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.

Cultivation & Habitat

Seed – sow April/May in a cold frame in a compost of peat and sand. Germination usually takes place within 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. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, July/August in a very sandy compost 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].
Requires a position in full sun in any well-drained but not too fertile soil[11, 134, 200]. Tolerates saline and very alkaline soils[200]. Plants are very tolerant of maritime exposure, though they dislike wet climates[K]. Resents root disturbance when large. Succeeds in a hot dry position. A very ornamental plant[60], though it is liable to succumb to winter wet when grown on heavy or rich soils[11, 200]. Dioecious. Male and female plants must be grown if seed is required. Occasional monoecious plants are found[274]. Individual plants can change sex. The change is more generally from female to male and is apparently associated with stress such as cold or drought. It would appear that the change confers a survival advantage on the plant[274].
Central and western N. America – South Dakota to Kansas, Texas, California and Mexico.

Become ungovernable, break the chains of the matrix; grow and forage your own food and medicine.

*None of the information on this website qualifies as professional medical advice. Take only what resonates with your heart and use your own personal responsibility for what’s best for you. For more information [brackets] [000], see bibliography.