Chamise, chamize, chamiso, white greasewood, saltsage, fourwing shadscale, bushy atriplex.
Rangeland/Grazing: fourwing saltbush is highly palatable browse for most livestock and big game. It is used primarily in the winter at which time it is high in carotene and averages about four percent digestible protein. The leaves may be as high as 18 percent total protein. It is grazed by all classes of livestock except horses.
Wildlife: fourwing saltbush provides excellent browse for deer season long. It is a good browse plant for bighorn sheep, antelope, and elk in fall and winter. It is also a food source and excellent cover for sharptail grouse, gray partridge (Huns), sage grouse, and other upland birds, rabbits, songbirds, and small mammals.
Erosion Control: fourwing saltbush makes excellent screens, hedges, and barriers. It is especially useful on saline-sodic soils. It has excellent drought tolerance. It has been planted in highway medians and on road shoulders, slopes, and other disturbed areas near roadways. Because it is a good wildlife browse species, caution is recommended in using it in plantings along roadways. Its extensive root system provides excellent erosion control.
Reclamation: fourwing saltbush is used extensively for reclamation of disturbed sites (mine lands, drill pads, exploration holes, etc,). It provides excellent species diversity for mine land reclamation projects.
Fourwing saltbush is a polymorphic species varying from deciduous to evergreen, depending on climate. Its much-branched stems are stout with whitish bark. Mature plants range from 1 to over 8 feet in height, depending on ecotype and the soil and climate. Its leaves are simple, alternate, entire, linear-spatulate to narrowly oblong, canescent (covered with fine whitish hairs) and ½ to 2 inches long. Its root system is branched and commonly very deep (to 20 feet) when soil depth allows.
Fourwing saltbush is mostly dioecious, with male and female flowers on separate plants. Male flowers are red to yellow and form dense spikes at the ends of the branches. The female flowers are axillary and nondescript. However, some monecious plants may be found within a population. Fourwing saltbush plants can exhibit hermaphroditic characteristics (male and female parts in one flower). The seed is contained in utricles that turn a dull yellow when ripe and may remain attached to the plant throughout winter.
Fourwing saltbush derives its name from the four membranous 'winged' capsules, which encompass the seed. It is most commonly called fourwing saltbush, but is also known as chamise, chamize, chamiso, white greasewood, saltsage, fourwing shadscale, and bushy atriplex.
Adaptation and Distribution
Fourwing saltbush is an important species in the northern salt desert shrub association. Average annual precipitation in this desert area varies from 6 to 14 inches but is mostly in the 8 to 12 inch range; summers are hot and dry and winters are normally cold. Fourwing saltbush grows on a wide range of soils from clays to sands. It does well in soils with high lime content. It can tolerate soil depths from 10 inches to over 3 feet, but is mostly found in moderately deep to deep soils. It is able to exist on soils with heavy white or black alkali concentrations but is not restricted to saline-alkali areas and is by no means an indicator of these conditions. The plant is found in desert flats, gravelly washes, mesas, ridges, slopes, and even on sand dunes. It can grow at elevations from 3,000 to as high as 8,000 feet, but is most likely to be found at 4,500 to 6,000 feet. Fourwing saltbrush is distributed throughout the western United States.
The seedbed should be weed free and firm. Drilling is the most successful seeding method but some success has occurred from broadcasting where some method of covering has been employed. Seed should be covered no deeper than 1 inch. Seedings have been successful throughout the year but best results are obtained by seeding in late spring or early summer. Good stands have been obtained by seeding during the winter as late as January. Seeding rate should be 8 to 10 pounds per acre. De-wing the seed with a hammer mill improves the ease of handling and enhances germination. Poor stands may result if seed is not de-winged.
Seed ripens in late August and September and can be collected from September to December by stripping it from dense clusters. They can be stored successfully and remain viable for 6 or 7 years. Some transplanting of 2 or 3 year old nursery stock has been tried but has not been successful.
Planted areas should be kept free of weeds during the first year of establishment. Proper grazing use on this shrub should be 40% of the total annual growth during the growing period and 50% during the plant dormancy period. This plant is well adapted to winter use. Careful management is needed due to the brittle nature of the twigs. A rotation deferred system of grazing will aid this plant in producing a maximum yield of forage for livestock.
As a screening plant, this species has a place on drier locations. However; it should not be seeded in heavy foot, horseback, or vehicle travel areas where it would soon be killed due to its brittle nature. In heavy winter deer concentration areas, this plant will be grazed out if additional food sources are not provided.
Pests and Potential Problems
There are no serious pests of fourwing saltbush. Rabbits and other small rodents are especially damaging to small seedlings.