BABINGTON'S ORACHE

Atriplex glabriuscula

Goosefoot Family [Amaranthaceae]

month8jul month8july month8aug month8sep month8sept

status
statusZnative
flower
flower8green
inner
inner8yellow
morph
morph8actino
petals
petalsZ5
type
typeZclustered
stem
stem8round
stem
stem8ribbed
sex
sexZdioeciousORsexZmonoecious

10th Oct 2015, marshside, Southport, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
A sprawling mostly recumbent plant which is rarely erect. Fruiting stage at end of season.


10th Oct 2015, marshside, Southport, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
Plant yellowish-green to pinkish-red at the end of season.


10th Oct 2015, marshside, Southport, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
The female flowers have all turned into fruits, which here are whitish-green. Leaves and stems more mealy than those of the similar Spear-Leaved Orache. Leaves lanceolate to kite-shaped or hastate with irregular-teeth.


20th Aug 2014, dunes, Hightown, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD


10th Oct 2015, marshside, Southport, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
The flowers or the fruits, unlike those of the similar Spear-Leaved Orache, are not clustered along the length of the tips of the stems but rather in tight bunches. A single seed should lie within each of the opposite pairs of gable-end-shaped / pentagonal bracteoles. The bracteoles have a few lumps on the edge, and larger lumps shaped like tiny horns on the sides - these are botanically called 'tubercules'.


20th Aug 2014, dunes, Hightown, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD


10th Oct 2015, marshside, Southport, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
Here be pinkish-red seed cases. Babington's Orache is 'supposed' to have two pairs of upwardly directed tubercules on each side of the centreline of each bracteole (four on each bracteole). Two clasping bracteoles make a seed-case. But few seed cases comply to this 'specification'. Many have fewer or more than 4 tubercules on the faces of the bracteoles, and the number and positioning of the smaller projections on the edges also varies, as does the shape of each bracteole.


10th Oct 2015, marshside, Southport, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
A small cluster of fruits showing the curved tubercules on the faces of the bracteoles, and the smaller pimples on the edges. Seeds ripened, the pairs of bracteoles will part to release the single seed contained within.


10th Oct 2015, marshside, Southport, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
Some of the apparent 'speckly whiteness' of the plant is due to grains of sand sticking to it, but not all.


20th Aug 2014, dunes, Hightown, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
A nearly text-book bracteole with nearly 4 tubercules (six here!). Note the stem: angular and ribbed/grooved.


10th Oct 2015, marshside, Southport, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
Leaves more mealy than those of Spear-Leaved Orache and irregularly but coarsely and bluntly toothed.


10th Oct 2015, marshside, Southport, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
Beneath the plant fallen fruits litter the sand awaiting to open and release the seed. The fruits, at about 5mm across or long, are slightly larger than those of most other oraches.


10th Oct 2015, marshside, Southport, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
A single seed case. This specimen has no tubercules on the flats of the bracteoles (there are supposed to be 4 each face).


10th Oct 2015, marshside, Southport, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
This specimen has but 2 tubercules (rather than 4). The seed cases of Babingtons Orache are usually depicted as being gable-end shaped / pentagonal shaped overall. They hinge apart from the top (as is usual for Oraches) but only to about half-way down in the case of Babingtons Orache.


20th Aug 2014, dunes, Hightown, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
The two bracteoles gently prised open to reveal the single seed nestling between.


10th Oct 2015, marshside, Southport, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
Forced apart and with the top bracteole removed entirely a single seed nestles in position on the remaining bracteole.


20th Aug 2014, dunes, Hightown, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
 Two male flowersside-by-side, one with all 5 anthers intact, the other has lost them.


20th Aug 2014, dunes, Hightown, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
 The usual single flower in the centre of two growing bracteoles either side. (If this were a female flower then the opposing bracteoles will eventually close together to envelop a developing fruit).


20th Aug 2014, dunes, Hightown, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
 Another male flower. The flowers usually have 5 tepals (rather than petals) and the same number of stamens.


20th Aug 2014, dunes, Hightown, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
 The stamens have lost their anthers.


20th Aug 2014, dunes, Hightown, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
 Side view of the flower immediately above showing purple tepals more clearly. Several other flowers are in the photo. These flowers are barely 2mm across, if that!


Not to be semantically confused with : Babington's Leek (Allium ampelopraseum var. babingtonii), White Ramping-Fumitory (Fumaria capreolata ssp. babingtonii) nor with two brambles possessing no common name: Rubus babingtonii and Rubus babingtonianus [plants with similar names]

Easily mis-identified as : Grass-Leaved Orache (Atriplex littoralis) but that is usually erect to 1.5m (rather than procumbent), but the bracteoles can also, like Babington's Orache, also be spongy at the base, but apparently, not as spongy (for which you need both at once in order to compare...).

Hybridizes with : Long-Stalked Orache (Atriplex longipes) to produce Taschereau's Orache (Atriplex × taschereaui) which is more common in Scotland and Northern England but occurs all around the coasts of the UK usually with Babington's Orache but not with Long-Stalked Orache.

It grows near the sea like most oraches but although occurring all around the coasts of the British Isles is nevertheless rare in many places. It is a native annual growing on sand or shingle beaches.

The horizontal line across where the two bracteoles encasing the single seed are no longer fused is one of the few identifying features of many Oraches, so these seed pods need to be examined closely one at a time and in isolation. Pick a few up from the ground beneath the plant where ripe ones have dropped. Also note the positioning and shape and number of any lumps on the bracteoles, and the overall shape of them. Even from the same species they differ individually by quite a margin, so quite a few may have to be examined. The bracteoles of Babingtons Orache are always spongy at their base, more so than those of Grass-Leaved Orache.

Babington's Orache is Unisexual, meaning it can be either Monoecious (with separate male and female flowers on the same plant) or Dioecious (with separate male and female flowers but on the same plant). The former implies you might find plants lacking fruits altogether because that is a male specimen. Since so much of the identification process depends upon observing the shape of the fruits, a male specimen may be unidentifiable...


  Atriplex glabriuscula  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Amaranthaceae  

Distribution
 family8Goosefoot family8Amaranthaceae

 BSBI maps
genus8Atriplex
Atriplex
(Oraches)

BABINGTON'S ORACHE

Atriplex glabriuscula

Goosefoot Family [Amaranthaceae]