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Protocol Information

Jennifer Kleffner
Former Nursery Director
Lower Colorado River Prop. Specialist
PO Box 666
Bayfield, Colorado 81122

Family Scientific Name: Chenopodiaceae
Family Common Name: Goosefoot
Scientific Name: Atriplex canescens (Pursh) Nutt.
Common Name: Four Wing Saltbush
General Distribution: All Western United States.
Propagation Goal: Plants
Propagation Method: Seed
Product Type: Container (plug)
Stock Type: 1 gallon container
Time To Grow: 6 Months
Target Specifications: Height > 12 inches, but with no roots growing from bottom of pot.
Propagule Collection: Plant is dioecious. Collect seed in the winter, from November to February. Do not collect after rains, when the seed will be damp and tend to mold. Seed can be pulled directly from female plants into bags, or a tarp can be spread on the ground, seed dropped to tarp, and then emptied into bag. Look for masses of larger sized seeds on mature female plants. Note that A. canescens has many phenotypes and it is important to collect seed from a site with similar characteristics to where seedlings will be outplanted.
Propagule Processing: We store seed in surplus military ammunition cans, which are air and water tight when sealed. The lid left cracked open until seed is completely dry. Cans are kept at outside ambient temperature in a storage shed. In our dry southwest Arizona climate, moisture is usually not a problem, but we often leave the cans cracked until the outside temperatures reach the 90's in May to ensure any residual moisture has escaped. Studies by others have shown seed to have better germination when they have been stored for at least one year, so we usually have two years supply of seed on hand, one ready to plant, and one still in the aging process.
Pre-Planting Treatments: No additional treatment is necessary before planting.
Growing Area Preparation/
Annual Practices for Perennial Crops:

All plants in our nursery are grown outside under 68% shade cloth, or in full sun. Therefore, planting season is critical. Pots are the typical 7 in diameter x 7 in high black plastic pots such as the ones made by Nursery Supply. However, we reuse and buy back pots, so they are often a mix of slightly different sizes, styles and brands. No additional cleaning is done. Soil mixture is approximately 50% local soil (sand) and 50% inexpensive wood mulch (mostly to lighten up the pots for shipping). This species commonly germinates in unplanted pots and in aisle-ways on its own in spring, as we are situated in an area with many native and revegetation four wing plants nearby. Seeds blow in on the wind and germinate with the increased irrigation. (Of course, these seedlings usually rival their propagated brethren in size.)
Establishment Phase: Four-wing Saltbush has the best germination rates in the temperate months of spring, March-April in Southwest Arizona (daytime temps in the 70's and 80's, nighttime in 50's). Therefore seeds are planted in March/April. If the temperature is too cold, seed will not germinate. Seed is mixed with an approximately equal amount of damp sand, and planted on the surface of prepared 1 gallon pots. (This is based on the assumption that in nature, seeds would be windblown and banked into sandy areas). Three to four seeds are planted in each pot. Irrigation during this time of year is normally 20-30 minutes once a day (normally around noon) by overhead sprinkler. Germination usually occurs in about two weeks. No fertilizers have been used (which isn't to say that they may not be of benefit) and pests are not a problem, as this is a native species growing in pretty much its native environment.
Length of Establishment Phase: 1-2 months
Active Growth Phase: Once plants are 2-3 inches high, they are thinned to the two strongest seedlings (partially to increase the chance of both male and female plants being near each other in revegetation plantings). Thinnings can be easily transplanted to empty pots. Plants are irrigated to keep soil moist but not soggy.
Length of Active Growth Phase: 3-6 months
Hardening Phase: Plants are ready for outplanting when they reach an acceptable size for planting. Generally, this is when they are about 12 inches high, but sometimes smaller or larger plants are used, depending upon need and stock availability. Once outplanted, the plants thrive on heat and do the majority of their growing and flowering in the hot summer months. Therefore, the goal is to have the plants ready for outplanting by May. This species does not seem to thrive in pots, and growth in pots can sometimes be slow. It is possible to hold plants for up to a year if they are too small to use at the required outplanting time.
Length of Hardening Phase: None
Harvesting, Storage and Shipping: Plants are delivered to planting site via lots of hand labor and a big truck. There is no doubt a better way.
Length of Storage: None
Outplanting performance on typical sites: Aside from what was noted above, information on survival once outplanted is not available. However, it should be noted that this is a very drought tolerant and salt tolerant species, and generally, establishment is not difficult once an area has been cleared of non-native vegetation.
Other Comments: Atriplex lentiformis (Quailbush) is also native to this area and has similar requirements.
References: View the USDA Forest Service Fire Effects Information web site for additional background information on this species. http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/index.html

Kleffner, Jennifer 2001. Propagation protocol for production of container Atriplex canescens (Pursh) Nutt. plants (1 gallon container); Lower Colorado River Prop. Specialist, Bayfield, Colorado. In: Native Plant Network. URL: http://www.nativeplantnetwork.org (accessed 28 August 2015). Moscow (ID): University of Idaho, College of Natural Resources, Forest Research Nursery.