Plant of the day: fat hen

One doesn’t usually think of a salt marsh as a colorful place. It’s pretty much all green plants and brown mud, right? WRONG. Especially at this time of year. The pickleweed is looking like a Christmas decoration, fat little stems of mottled red and green with the bright orange threads of dodder twining around it. As if this weren’t color enough, great swathes of pink have begun to emerge.

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Look close and you’ll see sprawling stems with slightly fleshy triangular leaves. Small seeds are also turning rosy, each small and spiky like a tiny spaceship. This is fat hen, or Atriplex prostrata, a non-native weed has naturalized here from Eurasia. The leaves are said to be bland but edible, and the seeds are as well–if anyone cares to take the time to collect them.

Also known as spear-leaved orache, it can be found growing in salt marshes and weedy places throughout the country.

Random fact: it inhibits the growth of potatoes if the two happen to grow near one another.

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Filed under Edible, Non-native, Plant of the day

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