Mojave Desert Saltbush: Atriplex Hymenelytra

Atriplex hymenelytra is an evergreen shrub  that tolerates alkaline soil, salt and sand. The leaves accumulate salts which helps extract water from the soil when other plants cannot Salt is shed by dropping the leaves. It can live in up to 30 parts per billion of Boron in solution, compared to most plants which can tolerate only about 1-5 parts per billion. As with other desert climate members of the Atriplex genus, it uses water conserving C4 photosynthetis, and it removes salts by having bladders in the leaves that keep the salt from the plant cells.
The leaves of the species have a number of characteristics that contribute to its ability to adapt  in a hot, dry environment. Its steeply angled leaves reduce midday solar interception, while conversely allowing relatively high interception when solar angles are low and vapor pressure deficits are at a minimum. The leaves substantially reduce their absorption  of incident radiation during the hot periods of the year by changing their moisture and dissolved salt contents. Because the  light intensity required for saturation of photosynthesis is low at such times is low, the reduced  radiation absorption by the leaves results in a greater water-use efficiency at that time of year.
Atriplex hymenelytra is the most drought tolerant saltbush in North America, tolerating the  hottest and driest sites in Death Valley, which lies just north of San Bernardino County, The plant remains active most of the year, but flowers in the main from January through April.
Desert holly grows in locations such as desert dry wash and creosote bush scrub in the Mojave Desert and can be found at elevations ranging from 250 to 3,900 feet.
Its small reddish fruits give it a passing resemblance to the unrelated European holly. Because of its attractiveness, this shrub’s leaves are often used in decorations for the home.
The silvery color is from salts that collect on surface hairs, although there are other reasons for this coloration. The reflective coloration helps reflect the light and therefore reduce the amount of water lost.]
Plants are male or female in their natural dry, desert habitat, but when artificially transplanted to cooler and wetter climates, male and female flowers may occur on the same plant. Female flowers are green.
The plant is a source of food and shelter for many desert animals. Barn Owls and Northern Harriers use its branches to perch on. Pronghorn, deer, and many desert rodents eat the leaves.
With dry soil, it can survive temperatures as low as ten degrees below zero Fahrenheit, but will die if the ground is wet and freezes.

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