Atriplex, spreading, Atriplex patula

Life Cycle



Reproducing only by seed.


Prostrate or nearly erect; at least the first 6 leaves opposite (2 per node), but usually alternate (1 per node) towards the ends of stems and branches; branching pattern therefore opposite near the base and alternate farther from the base.


Leaves linear to narrowly lance-shaped and with 1 or 2 lateral lobes and sometimes with a few teeth along the margins above the lobes, green, somewhat fleshy, mostly 1-5cm long.

Flowers and Fruit

Flowers very small and unisexual; male flowers with only stamens and sepals (no pistil or petals); female flowers with only a single pistil (without stamens, petals or sepals) and enclosed between 2 green, triangular to broadly diamond-shaped bracts about 1-4mm long and wide, and 2 to 5 of these usually clustered together in the axils of smaller leaves along nearly all the stems and branches; both sexes on one plant. Flowers from July to September.


Spreading atriplex is a native plant in both saline and non-saline moist soils throughout Ontario but frequently occurs as a weed in gardens, waste areas, and row crops in the southern part of the province.

Distinguishing Features

It is distinguished from Halbred-leaved atriplex by usually being prostrate, and by its narrower leaves without lobes or teeth and its wider leaves having a pair of lobes near the base that point outwards and upwards. It is distinguished from Lamb's-quarters by its several pairs of opposite leaves and branches, and its triangular to diamond-shaped bracts enclosing each flower.

Figure #1.

Spreading atriplex A = Base of plant. B = Portion of flowering stem showing detail of triangular bracts enclosing each flower.

Figure #2.

4 leaf Spreading atriplex seedling.

Figure #3.

Photo taken in spring, Southwestern Ontario.

Figure #4.

Spreading atriplex leaf. Note the two lateral lobes at the base of the leaf.

Figure #5.

Leaf bottom of spreading atriplex leaf.

Figure #6.

Leaf top of spreading atriplex leaf.

Figure #7.

Spreading atriplex in flower. Note the triangular to diamond-shaped bracts.

Figure #8.

Mature spreading atriplex plant.