Quail bush: November’s wild and edible California native plant

Summer has officially ended and now we welcome in the change of seasons. We are celebrating this change with Atriplex lentiformis, commonly known as quail bush or salt bush, as our native plant of the month.

In the Wild

Quail bush is a large, evergreen shrub that can be found from coastal California up to 100 miles inland of the state. It is also found in northern Mexico, where it likes to grow in saline or alkaline soils. It is typically found in areas with dry lake beds, coastline, desert scrub, but also near river banks and woodland. They are a highly adaptable plant and can tolerate the most extreme conditions to even areas with fertile soils.

In Your Garden

Quail bush is a host plant for the Saltbush Sootywing and Pygmy Blue butterflies, so it makes a wonderful addition to a butterfly garden along with other drought tolerant, pollinator native plants. You may even start to see families of quail and other birds moving into your yard once this plant gets establsihed!

Other plants that you can put into your garden with quail bush are natives such as deer grass (Muhlenberia rigens), arrow weed (Pluchea sericea), mesquite (Propsis glandulosa or P. pubescens), and willows (Salix species).

Quail bush is incredibly easy to take care of, as it tolerates a wide variety of soil and its water requirements are extremely low. We recommend watering once or twice each month, sparingly, after the plant is established post-installation. It can grow up to 10 feet tall and 10 feet wide, so don’t worry about chopping it down! It can take a lot of damage, and still grow back very quickly in a short amount of time.

All Edible

All of the quail bush plant is edible. Young shoots can be used as cooked greens before they get hardy. The leaves have a nice salty taste, so you won’t need any additional sodium in your meals if you use this plant. Fresh leaves are especially delicious in salads, sandwiches, and bruschettas.

Dried leaves were smoked by the Indigenous Californians as a way to treat head colds. Crushed flowers and leaves were also steamed and inhaled to be used as a nasal congestion treatment. The roots, dried and powdered, could also be applied to sores. The seeds were eaten in piole, but also ground into a fine powder to be cooked into porridge, or as a soup thickening agent. Be aware to not use any fertilizers with this plant, especially if you intend to eat it!

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