Atriplex cinerea


Atriplex: From an ancient Latin name whose derivation is uncertain, but a possible explanation is the name comes from the Greek a- 'without' and traphein 'nourishment' because many of these species grow in arid desert soils
cinerea: ash-grey

Common Name(s)

Grey saltbush

Current Conservation Status

2012 - Threatened - Nationally Critical

Conservation status of New Zealand indigenous vascular plants, 2012
The conservation status of all known New Zealand vascular plant taxa at the rank of species and below were reassessed in 2012 using the New Zealand Threat Classification System (NZTCS). This report includes a statistical summary and brief notes on changes since 2009 and replaces all previous NZTCS lists for vascular plants. Authors: Peter J. de Lange, Jeremy R. Rolfe, Paul D. Champion, Shannel P. Courtney, Peter B. Heenan, John W. Barkla, Ewen K. Cameron, David A. Norton and Rodney A. Hitchmough. File size: 792KB

Previous Conservation Status

2009 - Threatened - Nationally Critical
2004 - Non Resident Native - Coloniser


2012 - SO
2009 - SO


Atriplex cinerea Poir.



Brief Description

Low greyish shrub of open coastal areas. Leaves semi-fleshy, grey, narrow, with white flecks on surface. Twigs reddish, covered in fine grains. Flowers and fruit inconspicuous, in leaf bases.

Flora Category

Vascular - Native

NVS Species Code


The National Vegetation Survey (NVS) Databank is a physical archive and electronic databank containing records of over 94,000 vegetation survey plots - including data from over 19,000 permanent plots. NVS maintains a standard set of species code abbreviations that correspond to standard scientific plant names from the Ngä Tipu o Aotearoa - New Zealand Plants database.

Structural Class

Dicotyledonous Trees & Shrubs


Indigenous. New Zealand: South Island (Collected from Boulder Bank in Nelson in 1960 and DUrville Island in 1961, still present in the Waimea Estuary). Historically it occurred at Palliser Bay and Wellington. Also known from Australia, including Norfolk and Lord Howe Islands.


Coastal. On boulder beaches, within salt marshes, on barrier bar sand spits and shell banks.


Sprawling, semi-erect, woody, heavily branched, leafy, dioecious or subdioecious shrub, forming mounds up to 1.5 × 4 m. Branchlets stout, rooting freely on contact with soil; stems at first ridged and angular, soon becoming terete and woody with age. All parts of young growth covered in a fine, scurfy, farinose pubescence; coalescing with age to form silvery white scurfy scales. Leaves 15–20 × 32–46 mm, linear-oblong, lanceolate, rarely weakly hastate, silvery grey, greyish white or occasionally pinkish grey, under surface with pale white, thickened midrib. Petioles short, 1–3 mm, stout, silvery white. Leaf surface ± mat, glabrous, cuticle soon cracking in an anastomosing pattern made up of ± circular scales; apex white slightly thickened, apiculate, apiculus pink, deciduous, 0.5–0.8 mm; base acute, attenuate, rounded or very rarely truncate ; margin entire, lightly curved, occasionally sparsely glandular hairy near leaf base. Female flowers borne in leaf axils, either solitary, or in small axillary clusters, rarely forming axillary and terminal spikes. Female flowers occasionally found within the lower leaf axils of male plants. Perianth absent; bracteoles 2, 2 mm diameter, lower half fused, margins initially entire, either remaining so or developing appendages in fruit; stigmas 2, c.3 mm long, pink, filiform, slightly tapering, minutely plumose-papillate, ovary 0.35 mm, ovoid. Male inflorescence 30–140 mm long, conspicuous, dense, forming large interrupted or continuous oblong or obovoid spikes, these often panicled toward branch apices; glomerules 5–30 mm long, purple-green, pinkish red or wine-red. Flowers unisexual; perianth lobes 5, pink or wine-red, 1.7 mm long, obovate, apex sharply inflexed, cucullate, exterior towards apex with dense vesicular covering; stamens 5–6, filaments 0 .8 mm long, white, anthers 0.8 mm long, broad-oblanceolate, pollen yellowish golden. Fruiting bracteoles subsessile or shortly stipitate; stipe turbinate, woody; bracteoles ovoid to broadly deltoid or rhomboid, 6–10 mm long and wide, united towards base, corky or ± woody and swollen toward the centre and base, otherwise coriaceous with an entire margin; surface smooth or ornamented with verrucose appendages on one or both sides. Seed circular 3–4 mm diameter, testa chestnut-brown, smooth and glossy; radicle lateral, erect.

Similar Taxa



August - June

Flower Colours

Red / Pink,Yellow


September - August

Propagation Technique

Easy to grow from cuttings. Plant layers itself producing adventitious roots off decumbent stems. Seed ad cuttings may be collected at any time. Cuttings establish well in river sand. Plant grows well in full sun and wind in a gritty free-draining soil. Also grows well in soils with a high pH and bird manure.


Now known from just one natural population. It has also been successfully established in a number of sites around Nelson. Vulnerable to browsing animals and coastal erosion.

Chromosome No.

2n = 54

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Life Cycle and Dispersal

Spongy nutlet dispersed by water and possibly also wind and granivory (Thorsen et al., 2009).

Where To Buy

Occasionally offered by specialist native plant nurseries. Most commercial stock seen is female.



Description modified from de Lange, et al. (2000).

References and further reading

de Lange, P.J.; Murray, B.G.; Gardner, R.O. 1998: Atriplex cinerea (Chenopodiaceae) in New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Botany 36: 521—529.

Thorsen, M. J.; Dickinson, K. J. M.; Seddon, P. J. 2009. Seed dispersal systems in the New Zealand flora. Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics 2009 Vol. 11 No. 4 pp. 285-309

This page last updated on 6 Dec 2014