En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Wednesday - March 02, 2011

From: Van Nuys, CA
Region: California
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Identification of spiny plant in Yucca Mesa, CA
Answered by: Nan Hampton


I have a very prickly bush on my property near Yucca Mesa, CA, (high desert). 2 to 3 feet high. Branches mostly starting from the center near ground. Lots of 1 to 2 inch spines on branches. Dormant in winter, and very dry and white looking. Just now producing small grayish leaves near each spine. Bundles of flowers at the end of each branch starting to emerge, yellow I think. Elevation is 3000+ feet, and sandy soil. Wish I could attach a photo. What could it be? I can't find it in any books or on-line sites. Grateful for help.


This sounds to me like Atriplex confertifolia (Shadscale).  Other common names for it are spiny saltbush and hop sage.  If you click on California on the map on the USDA Plants Database, you will see it does occur in San Bernadino County.

Here is more information and photos from Utah State University, Southwest Colorado Wildflowers and photos from University of California-Berkeley CalPhotos database. 

Mr. Smarty Plants would be very interested to know if this is your plant.  If not, let me know and I'll suggest some other possibilities for identifying it. 

Here are some photos from our Image Gallery:

Atriplex confertifolia

Atriplex confertifolia

Atriplex confertifolia

Atriplex confertifolia



More Plant Identification Questions

Plant identification
June 07, 2011 - Please help me identify this volunteer plant in my back yard in Austin, TX. It has long thorns. Thank you.
view the full question and answer

Identification of small plant with white flowers in Baltimore, MD
June 21, 2012 - It's a small plant, has flowers in June, four white petals with large, tall conical center, about no more than an inch in diameter. The leaves are alternating with branched veins. It stays at about 6...
view the full question and answer

Identity of ball-shaped purple flower in Connecticut
July 13, 2015 - I am trying to identify a ball shaped purple/light purple flower with opposite leaves that look fern like. It has been in bloom since late May or early June. I have found it growing with what appear...
view the full question and answer

Identification of plant in Menard TX
April 16, 2010 - We recently purchased 40 acres in Menard Texas on the San Saba River. There is a plant that looks like a fern that is all over the river bottom. It looks like the foliage on a carrot and they are al...
view the full question and answer

Identification of seedlings
December 20, 2014 - So..last spring I spread out a bag of random Texas wildflower seed I bought at Home Depot. Bautiful things happened. Since that time I've collected seeds while out camping etc and just been chunking ...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center