Shadscale Saltbrush

  • Scientific name: Atriplex confertifolia
  • Densely branched and spiny shrub 1 to 3 feet tall
  • Occurs in climates that receive 4 to 8 inches precip
  • Extremely drought tolerant
  • Used by all classes of livestock
  • Browsed mostly in the winter and the spring

Quantity is per pound. Example: 1 = 1 lb, 2 = 2 lbs, 3 = 3lbs, etc. This is pure seed, not a live plant.

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Shadscale saltbrush (Atriplex confertifolia) is a densely branched and spiny dioecious shrub 1 to 3 feet tall. Shadscale occurs in arid climates that receive 4 to 8 inches of precipitation annually. It occurs on dry slopes, flat areas, ridges, and valley bottoms, from 4000 to 7000 feet in elevation. It can form almost pure stands in some locations. It is resistant to overgrazing and is drought tolerant. Tolerance to drought is achieved through partial shedding of leaves; this reduces water loss during severe moisture stress. The spines of shadscale allow only 15 to 20% of the previous summers herbaceous growth to be grazed. Leaves are salty to the taste.

Shadscale Saltbrush growth is greatly related to seasonal precipitation. Shadscale is not fully deciduous, retaining the majority of its leaves through winter. A small proportion of leaves are shed in the fall, with new leaves produced in March or April. It prefers well-drained, moderately saline soils where groundwater is below the rooting zone.

Shadscale Saltbrush is used by all classes of livestock for forage. It is also used by Mule Deer. It is used mostly during winter and spring for browse. Late spring or summer grazing, especially if intensive, is injurious to shadscale. The fruits provide food for game birds and songbirds. The seeds of shadscale remain on the plant throughout the winter, enhancing its nutritional value.

Prolonged periods of high soil moisture are believed to increase shadscale’s susceptibility to parasites and disease. Shadscale is very susceptible to water mold, root rot, and vascular wilt fungi.

***Click on the “Quick Plant Facts” tab above for more information.

(Atriplex confertifolia)

Shadscale Saltbush NRCS Plant Guide

PDF version of NRCS Plant Guide & Fact Sheet

Citation: D. Tilley and L. St. John, L. 2013. USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, Plant Materials Center, Aberdeen, Idaho 83210.

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Helpful Links

Additional information about this product can be found on the academic websites linked below.


Many plants have more than one common and scientific name. We've listed a few of them below.

  • Shadscale Saltbrush
  • Atriplex confertifolia

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Quick Plant Facts
Common Name:

Shadscale Saltbush

Scientific Name:


Plant Type:

pH Tolerance:

Seed Count


Plant Height:

Min. Precipitation

4 inches

Best Time to Sow:

Max Sowing Depth:

Growth Season:

Sun & Shade Tolerance:

Full Sun

Planting Zone Range:

2,500-7,500 feet

Hardiness Zones:

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