Two More Death Valley Shrubs

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desert holly, Yuma desert holly,
silver holly
Atriplex hymenelytra
Amaranthaceae
(formerly Chenopodiaceae)

Desert holly, a shrub that can grow to three feet tall, has leaves that bear a slight resemblance to the familiar Old World hollies (Ilex species), but they aren’t closely related at all. It can be found in the Mojave desert in California, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona, where it’s listed as Salvage Restricted.  It’s highly tolerant of alkaline soils and is highly drought resistant.

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Going on a tangent… Arizona has different conservation nomenclature from the Eastern states. According to the Arizona Cooperative Extension, there are four levels of protected native plants. “Salvage Restricted” is the second level: “This large group of plants are subject to damage and vandalism. This is a large list of species with 32 plant families represented, the largest being numerous species of cacti.”


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sprucebush, pygmycedar,
desert fir, desert pine
Peucephyllum schotii
Asteraceae

At a first, distant glance this plant looks similat to creosote bush, but up close you can see that the leaves and flowers are clearly very different. Despite the common names, it isn’t a spruce, cedar, fir, or pine.  It’s in the aster family, but has only disk flowers (no rays). It grows in the Mojave and Sonora deserts and can reach heights of 10 feet.

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