Russian thistle Salsola kali, from here.

Belongs within: Caryophyllales.
Contains: Suaeda, Camphorosmeae, Atriplex, Chenopodium, Dysphania, Einadia, Rhagodia, Halosarcia, Tecticornia.

The Chenopodiaceae are a cosmopolitan family of herbs and shrubs with small, greenish flowers (Allan 1961). Members include the genus Salsola, saltworts, a group of herbs or subshrubs (rarely shrubs or small trees), native to the western Palaearctic but widely introduced elsewhere, with mostly alternate leaves that often narrow terminally to a spine or soft bristle. The Salicornioideae are leafless plants with succulent, jointed stems that usually have the flowers surrounded by succulent bracts (Wilson 1984). They are commonly found growing in salty habitats such as salt marshes or the shores of salt lakes; the species Salicornia europaea (glasswort) is eaten as a herb. The Polycnemoideae are herbs and subshrubs with the perianth surrounded by two large bracteoles.

The Mancos saltbush: life in the badlands
Published 3 November 2016
Mancos saltbush Proatriplex pleiantha, from here.

Proatriplex pleiantha, the Mancos saltbush, is arguably not much to look at. It never grows very large (only about half a foot in height) and though a single plant may produce a lot of flowers, they are not very showy. Nevertheless, this little fleshy-leaved annual is something of a survivor. It grows on badlands in only a few localities in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado, and may be the only vegetation to be found on the eroded clays that it calls home. It persists in this hostile environment by not persisting; instead, each individual plant will produce hundreds, if not thousands, of seeds during its short life that may lie dormant in the soil for several years, waiting for the flash of rain that will allow it to emerge.

The Mancos saltbush was first described in 1950; its vernacular name refers to the original collection locality near the Mancos River. It was originally described in the genus Atriplex, a diverse cosmopolitan assemblage of herbs and shrubs in the family Chenopodiaceae commonly known as saltbushes and oraches (the garden orache or mountain spinach A. hortensis has long been grown as a vegetable in Europe). However, right from the start it was considered distinctive enough to be placed in its own subgenus, later raised to the status of a distinct genus by Stutz et al. (1990). A molecular phylogenetic analysis by Kadereit et al. (2010) later confirmed that Proatriplex pleiantha is not a direct relative of Atriplex, instead being associated with other small North American Chenopodiaceae genera Grayia and Stutzia. Features distinguishing Proatriplex from true Atriplex include the succulent leaves, the flowers being borne in groups of three to seven in the axil of a single bract, and the presence of a five-segmented perianth around female flowers (Atriplex flowers are borne singly to a bract, and lack a perianth).

Because of its restricted range, the Mancos saltbush may be vulnerable to disturbances in its habitat; for instance, one of its main population centres in New Mexico is in close proximity to the Navajo coal mine. Nevertheless, this species is not currently listed by the US Fish & Wildlife service as being of concern, due to its being locally abundant in the areas where it does occur. Surveys of this species have been complicated by the dependence of its germination on suitable weather conditions: in years with little rainfall, it may appear to be almost absent, but the advent of a wetter year may prove otherwise. All it takes is a decent drop of rain, and you may see the badlands bloom.

Systematics of Chenopodiaceae

Characters (from Allan 1961): Annual to perennial herbs or shrubs with mostly alternate, simple, exstipulate leaves. Flowers very small, often bracted, greenish, perfect or unisexual, regular or nearly so. Perianth 3–5-lobed or absent; often accrescent in female; stamens usually 3–5, free, anthers 2-celled. Ovary 1-celled, indehiscent; embryo annular.

    |    |--PolycnemumT00
    |    |--HemichroaT00
    |    |    |--H. diandraK90
    |    |    `--H. pentandraLK14
    |    `--NitrophilaT00
    |         |--N. mohavensisH93
    |         `--N. occidentalisH93
    |    |--CamphorosmeaeM99
    |    |--Beta L. 1753W84 [BeteaeM99]
    |    |    |--*B. vulgaris L. 1753W84
    |    |    |    |  i. s.: B. v. var. esculentaK-WK92
    |    |    |    |--B. v. ssp. vulgarisW84
    |    |    |    `--B. v. ssp. maritima (L.) Thell. 1912 (see below for synonymy)W84
    |    |    `--B. procumbensA02
    |    |--AtripliceaeM99
    |    |    |--AtriplexFO03
    |    |    |--EndolepisFO03
    |    |    |--ProatriplexFO03
    |    |    `--Theleophyton Moq. in DC. 1849FO03, W84 (see below for synonymy)
    |    |         `--*T. billardierei (Moq.) Moq. in DC. 1849W84 (see below for synonymy)
    |    `--ChenopodieaeW84
    |         |--ChenopodiumW84
    |         |--DysphaniaW84
    |         |--EinadiaW84
    |         |--RhagodiaW84
    |         |--Scleroblitum Ulbr. 1934 [=Chenopodium sect. Atriplicina Aellen 1931]W84
    |         |    `--*S. atriplicinum (Muell.) Ulbr. 1934 (see below for synonymy)W84
    |         `--Monolepis Schrader 1830W84
    |              |--*M. trifida (Trevir.) Schrader 1830W84
    |              |--M. nuttallianaH93
    |              |--M. pusillaH93
    |              `--M. spatulata Gray 1868W84
    |--Salicornioideae [Salicornieae]T00
    |    |--HalosarciaW84
    |    |--TecticorniaW84
    |    |--Tegicornia Wilson 1980W84
    |    |    `--*T. uniflora Wilson 1980W84
    |    |--Pachycornia Hook. in Benth. & Hook. 1880W84
    |    |    `--*P. triandra (Muell.) Black 1924 (see below for synonymy)W84
    |    |--Sclerostegia Wilson 1980W84
    |    |    |--*S. tenuis (Benth.) Wilson 1980 (see below for synonymy)W84
    |    |    |--S. arbuscula (Br.) Wilson 1980 (see below for synonymy)W84
    |    |    |--S. disarticulata Wilson 1980W84
    |    |    |--S. medullosa Wilson 1980W84
    |    |    `--S. moniliformis Wilson 1980W84
    |    |--Salicornia Linnaeus 1753A61
    |    |    |--S. bigeloviiM83
    |    |    |--S. europaea [incl. S. rubra]H93
    |    |    |--S. fruticosaP05
    |    |    |--S. herbaceaPP64
    |    |    |--S. subterminalisH93
    |    |    |--S. utahensisH93
    |    |    `--S. virginicaH93
    |    `--Sarcocornia Scott 1977W84
    |         |--*S. perennis (Miller) Scott 1977W84
    |         |--S. blackiana (Ulbr.) Scott 1978 (see below for synonymy)W84
    |         |--S. fruticosaPM09
    |         |--S. globosa Wilson 1980W84
    |         `--S. quinqueflora (Bunge ex Ung.-Sternb.) Scott 1977 (see below for synonymy)W84
    |              |--S. q. ssp. quinquefloraW84
    |              `--S. q. ssp. tasmanica Wilson 1980W84
    `--Salsola L. 1753W84 [Salsoleae, SalsoloideaeT00]
         |--*S. soda L. 1753W84
         |--S. albisepalaCV06
         |--S. arboreaCV06
         |--S. aroabicaCV06
         |--S. baryosma (Roem. & Schult.) Dandy in Andrews 1950 (see below for synonymy)SY72
         |--S. campylopteraCV06
         |--S. caulifloraCV06
         |--S. columnarisCV06
         |--S. cryptopteraCV06
         |--S. denudataCV06
         |--S. dinteriCV06
         |--S. dolichostigmaCV06
         |--S. etoshensisCV06
         |--S. foetidaD17
         |--S. garubicaCV06
         |--S. gemmataCV06
         |--S. giessiiCV06
         |--S. hoanibicaCV06
         |--S. hottentotticaCV06
         |--S. huabicaCV06
         |--S. ibericaRJ11
         |--S. inermisGR98
         |--S. kali L. 1753 (see below for synonymy)W84
         |    |--S. k. ssp. kaliW84
         |    |--S. ‘tragus’ ssp. grandifloraLK14
         |    `--S. k. ssp. tragusW84
         |--S. kleinfonteiniCV06
         |--S. koichabicaCV06
         |--S. longifoliaGR98
         |--S. marginataCV06
         |--S. mirabilisCV06
         |--S. namibicaCV06
         |--S. nepalensisO88
         |--S. okaukuejensisCV06
         |--S. omaruruensisCV06
         |--S. parvifloraCV06
         |--S. paulseniiH93
         |--S. pazetzkianaS00
         |--S. proceraCV06
         |--S. ptilopteraCV06
         |--S. richteriS00
         |--S. robinsoniiCV06
         |--S. schreiberaeCV06
         |--S. scopiformisCV06
         |--S. seminudaCV06
         |--S. seydeliiCV06
         |--S. spenceriCV06
         |--S. swakopmundiCV06
         |--S. tetragonaB28
         |--S. ugabicaCV06
         |--S. unjabicaCV06
         |--S. vermiculataH93
         |--S. volkensiiDH98
         `--S. zygophyllaD17

Chenopodiaceae incertae sedis:
    |--A. amaranthoidesV09
    `--A. prostrataO88
  Microgynoecium tibeticumO88
    |--A. fruticosumC55
    `--A. macrostachyumPT98
    |--H. glomeratusH93
    `--H. sativusW84
    |--K. ceratoidesO88
    `--K. lanata [=Ceratoides lanata, Eurotia lanata]H93
  Halimione pedenculataF92
    |--A. occidentalisH93
    `--A. vaginataRH96
  Aphanisma blitoidesH93
  Corispermum hyssopifoliumH93
  Grayia spinosa [=Atriplex spinosa]H93
  Salicornites massalongoi Principi 1926CBH93
  Polyporina cribraria Srivastava 1969CBH93
  Anserina Dumort. 1827KC01
  Esfandiaria Charif & Aellen 1955KC01
  Nucularia perriniD17
  Halocnemum strobilaceumD17
  Traganum nudatumD17
  Anabasis articulataD17
  Cornulaca monacanthaD17

Beta vulgaris ssp. maritima (L.) Thell. 1912 [=B. maritima L. 1762, B. vulgaris var. maritima (L.) Moq. in DC. 1849, B. vulgaris var. perennis L. 1753]W84

*Pachycornia triandra (Muell.) Black 1924 [=Arthrocnemum triandrum Muell. 1859, Salicornia triandra (Muell.) Druce 1917, S. robusta Muell. 1868 (nom. illeg.), Pachycornia robusta (Muell.) Baillon 1887 (nom. illeg.)]W84

Salsola baryosma (Roem. & Schult.) Dandy in Andrews 1950 [=Chenopodium baryosmon Roem. & Schult. 1820; incl. S. foetida Del. 1813 (n. n.)]SY72

Salsola kali L. 1753 [incl. S. australis Br. 1810, S. brachypteris Moq. 1840, S. kali var. brachypteris (Moq.) Benth. 1807, S. kali var. leptophylla Benth. 1870, S. macrophylla Br. 1810, S. ruthenica Iljin 1934, S. kali ssp. ruthenica (Iljin) Soó in Soó & Jáv. 1951, S. kali var. strobilifera Benth. 1870, S. australis var. strobilifera (Benth.) Domin 1921]W84

Sarcocornia blackiana (Ulbr.) Scott 1978 [=Salicornia blackiana Ulbr. 1934, Arthrocnemum heptiflorum Moss ex Fourc. 1941 (nom. illeg.), Sal. pachystachya Black 1921 non Ung.-Sternb. 1866]W84

Sarcocornia quinqueflora (Bunge ex Ung.-Sternb.) Scott 1977 [=Salicornia quinqueflora Bunge ex Ung.-Sternb. 1866; incl. Sal. australis Sol. ex Muell. 1869, Sal. australis Sol. ex Benth. 1870 non Sol. ex Muell. 1869, Arthrocnemum heptiflorum Moss 1954 non Moss ex Fourc. 1941]W84

*Scleroblitum atriplicinum (Muell.) Ulbr. 1934 [=Blitum atriplicinum Muell. 1855, Chenopodium (sect. *Atriplicina) atriplicinum (Muell.) Muell. 1869; incl. Euxolus enervis Muell. 1859, Amaranthus enervis (Muell.) Muell. ex Benth. 1870, A. tenuis Benth. 1870]W84

Sclerostegia arbuscula (Br.) Wilson 1980 [=Salicornia arbuscula Br. 1810, Arthrocnemum arbuscula (Br.) Moq. 1840, Halocnemum arbuscula (Br.) Bailey 1883, Pachycornia arbuscula (Br.) Scott 1977]W84

*Sclerostegia tenuis (Benth.) Wilson 1980 [=Salicornia tenuis Benth. 1870, Pachycornia tenuis (Benth.) Black 1919; incl. Sa. donaldsonii Ewart & White 1909, Arthrocnemum donaldsonii (Ewart & White) Gardner 1930]W84

Theleophyton Moq. in DC. 1849FO03, W84 [=Atriplex ser. Theleophyton (Moq.) Benth. 1870W84, A. subg. Theleophyton (Moq.) Volkens 1893W84]

*Theleophyton billardierei (Moq.) Moq. in DC. 1849W84 [=Obione billardieri Moq. 1840A61, Atriplex billardierei (Moq.) Hook. 1853W84; incl. A. (Theleophyton) chrystallina Hook. f. 1847A61]

*Type species of generic name indicated


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