GRASS-LEAVED ORACHE

Atriplex littoralis

Goosefoot Family [Amaranthaceae]

month8jul month8july month8aug month8sep month8sept

status
statusZnative
 
flower
flower8green
 
flower
flower8red flower8purple
 
morph
morph8actino
 
petals
petalsZ5
sepals
type
typeZclustered
 
type
typeZspiked
 
stem
stem8round
 
stem
stem8ribbed
 

23rd July 2016, Green Beach, Ainsdale, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
A young specimen. The leaves are linear to linear-lanceolate, either toothed or not. In particular, no basal leaves have a triangular shape as they often do on Common Orache and other Oraches. Sometimes Common Orache can also possess similar narrow leaves, but the leaves of Narrow-leaved Orache do not have a translucent leaf-vein visible when viewed against the light source as do those of Common Orache.


10th Oct 2015, sands, Marshside, Sefton Coast Photo: © RWD
A flowering and seeding specimen. Grows 50 - 100cm high.


10th Oct 2015, sands, Marshside, Sefton Coast Photo: © RWD
A well-branched plant. Leaves not mealy as are many other Oraches. Stem ribbed/ridged.


10th Oct 2015, sands, Marshside, Sefton Coast Photo: © RWD
Inflorescences in tightly clustered spikes.


10th Oct 2015, sands, Marshside, Sefton Coast Photo: © RWD
The reddish things are the flowers. The larger triangular-shaped brown flaps (called bracteoles) in overlapping pairs enclose the single seed. The bracteoles open like a birds beak when the seed is ripe along a horizontal line very close to the foot of the bracteole. The line where the bracteoles are no longer fused is one of the few identifying features of many Oraches, so the seed pods need to be examined closely one at a time. Many are slightly ajar already.


10th Oct 2015, sands, Marshside, Sefton Coast Photo: © RWD


10th Oct 2015, sands, Marshside, Sefton Coast Photo: © RWD
The yellow or green things are the developing seed cases, which turn dark-brown when ripe.


10th Oct 2015, sands, Marshside, Sefton Coast Photo: © RWD
The long tip of the seed cases have an identifying isosceles triangular profile, sometimes with a spike each side, other times with several smaller spikes too.


10th Oct 2015, sands, Marshside, Sefton Coast Photo: © RWD


10th Oct 2015, sands, Marshside, Sefton Coast Photo: © RWD
Several developing reddish-purple seed cases are clustered together here. Stem angular.


10th Oct 2015, sands, Marshside, Sefton Coast Photo: © RWD
A large brown triangular seed case with projections each side.


10th Oct 2015, sands, Marshside, Sefton Coast Photo: © RWD
The leaves are linear to linear lanceolate; none are triangular.


10th Oct 2015, sands, Marshside, Sefton Coast Photo: © RWD
A large moth on the plant: an Angle Shades moth which has triangular brown marks on which resemble the outline of the seed cases of Oraches, although the same markings are able to camouflage it on a large number of other plants. Even the outline of the spaces between clusters of fruit (just right and below centre) sometimes mirrors the shape and colour of some of the markings on this moth.


Not to be semantically confused with : Grass-leaved Arrowhead (Sagittaria graminea), Grass-leaved Golden-Rod (Solidago graminifolia) nor with Spear-leaved Orache (Atriplex prostrata) [plants with similar names]

Easily mistaken for : a narrow-leaved specimen of Common Orache (Atriplex patula) which are fairly common, although most Common Oraches have at least some triangular basal leaves. The clincher though is that the leaves of Common Orache, when held up against the light, have a translucent vein (whereas those of Spear-leaved Orache are opaque). The fruits of Common Orache have a propensity for pointed-oval fruits with usually two side projections, whereas those of Spear-leaved Orache are more triangular with a flattish base and several projections each side. The two halves of the fruit are hinged very close to the base (rather than part-way up), another feature which aids identification.

Hybridises with :

  • Common Orache (Atriplex patula). This hybrid occurs with both parents present and is mostly sterile with lower leaves like those of Common Orache (triangular-ish)) and bracteoles which are spongy like those of Spear-leaved Orache.
  • Spear-leaved Orache (Atriplex prostrata) to produce Atriplex × hulmeana which occurs with both parents in East Anglia and Northern England and possesses spongy bracteoles and succulent lower leaves which are trullate shaped (kite shaped).

It is a native and common plant which grows in sandy saline places near the sea along most coasts of the British Isles but is more common in the East. It is salt-tolerant and is also found inland on road verges which have been sprayed with salt.

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.


  Atriplex littoralis  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Amaranthaceae  

Distribution
 family8Goosefoot family8Amaranthaceae

 BSBI maps
genus8Atriplex
Atriplex
(Oraches)

GRASS-LEAVED ORACHE

Atriplex littoralis

Goosefoot Family [Amaranthaceae]