Grayia spinosa   spiny hopsage
           (Alt: Atriplex spinosa )
Chenopodiaceae (Alt: Amaranthaceae )
sensitive                      woody           
Distribution: West Valley, South Boise

UW Burke Herbarium Link: Grayia spinosa
USDA Plants Link: Grayia spinosa   (GRSP)
Flora of North America Link: Grayia spinosa


Spiny hopsage is a small shrub that is common south of the Snake River Plains, where the soil is more alkaline than in the Boise Front.  Its presence within the floristic area is based on historical collections from Spring Valley, an area now taken over by the Avimor community.  If spiny hopsage still exists in Spring Valley, its future is precarious at best.

Bernice Bjornson had this this to say in 1946, on the spring flower of southwestern Idaho:  “On alkaline soil in our sagebrush plains the sagebrush give way to plants which tolerate the strong salts.  One of these is the shrub, Grayia spinosa.”  She then adds this quote:  “After flowering, which is inconspicuous, the stout bushy stems become top heavy with huge compound clusters of seed vessels, each bony seed encased in a skintight, beruffled jacket with broad flaring wings, sometimes green but often pink or crimson – a colorful trait that makes friends for it as a thing of cheer in the midst of gray monotony.  It belongs to the homely Goosefoot or Pigweed family of which the beet, the spinach and a lot of barnyard weeds are members.  It seems first to have been noticed by David Douglas in the Columbia River country.  The botanic name was given out of compliment to Asa Gray, who, on his first visit to Europe in 1838, speaks of the matter in one of his racy letters home……..Gray was at the time still a comparative youngster, only twenty-eight, and to have any sort of plant named for him was flattering; but in  view of the brilliant career that was to be his, one may be pardoned the regret that his friend Hooker had not waited for something better, for after you have had one genus named for you, you cannot have another”  (Saunders 1933).

Saunders, Charles F.  1933.  Western Wild Flowers and Their Stories.  Doubleday, Doran & Co., Garden City, NY.