||Around 300 species are included in this genus in the chenopod or goosefoot family (which includes spinach and beet). Occurring on all continents except Antarctica, mainly in drier habitats, Atriplex includes many shrubs as well as annuals and perennials. Usually much branched from the base, they have wiry crooked twigs and leaves that are fleshy to varying degrees, often coarsely toothed and covered in fine whitish scales or tiny bubble-like cells that reflect the light and give the foliage a silvery or pale bluish cast. They frequently grow in saline soils and the leaf sap is then salty to the taste; sheep that feed on saltbush produce meat of a distinctive flavor, prized by some gourmets. Flowers are small and mostly inconspicuous, of different sexes which are commonly on different plants. The female flowers nestle between two fleshy bracts that enlarge and fuse around the developing fruit and have a characteristic shape and size for each species; in some they are large, abundant and conspicuous. Apart from their fodder value, saltbushes can be used to revegetate saline areas. As their succulent leaves are non-flammable they can be planted as fire-retardant barriers or hedges in suitable climates. A number of species make attractive ornamentals with their dense, whitish foliage.
||CULTIVATION: They are useful plants for hot, dry or saline environments including exposed seashores. All require full sun and do best in a well-drained soil of moderate fertility. Plants can be cut back hard, responding with thicker foliage, and trained into hedges. Propagate from softwood cuttings or seed. Seed may need prolonged soaking to simulate the effect of the long period of rain that may be needed for these desert plants to germinate.