Atriplex halimus, Sea Purslane, Shrubby Orache,
Shrubby Saltbush, Hebrew: מלוח קיפח, Arabic: قطف، رغل،

Scientific name:  Atriplex halimus L.
Common name:  Sea Purslane, Shrubby Orache, Shrubby Saltbush
Dutch name:  Melde
Hebrew name:  מלוח קיפח
Arabic name:  قطف، رغل،
Family:  Chenopodiaceae, סלקיים

Atriplex halimus, Shrubby Saltbush,Melde, מלוח קיפח . قطف، رغل

Life form:  Phanerophyte, shrub
Succulence:  bladderlike hairs - salt bladders - salt hairs - vesicular hairs
Stems:  Mealy shrub, creeping rootstock, 100-200 cm tall; branches from the base, both stems and leaves are covered with several layers of vesicular hairs
Leaves:  Alternate, entire, covered with several layers of vesicular hairs
Flowers:  Green
Fruits / pods:  Minute nutlets enclosed in 2 leathery scales
Flowering Period:  April, May, June, July, August, September, October
Habitat:   Salty habitats
Distribution:  Mediterranean Woodlands and Shrublands, Semi-steppe shrublands, Shrub-steppes, Deserts and extreme deserts
Chorotype:   Med - Saharo-Arabian
Summer shedding:  Perenating

פרחים וצמחי בר - דיווחי פריחה - מלוח קיפח


Derivation of the botanical name:
Atriplex, ατραφαξιϛ, ατραφαξυϛ, αδραφαξυϛ, ανδραφαξιϛ, a pot-herb like spinach, orach (Atriplex hortensis) from which the entire genus gets its name.
halimus, αλιμοϛ, of or belonging to the sea.
In Hebrew, in Chaldee, and in Syriac, the word Maluach, מלוח, implies a brackish or salt-tasted plant. In the Septuagint, it is rendered ,άλιμα, the halimus.
Maluach, מלוח, comes from melech, מלך, salt, The translation of the Hebrew word 'maluach', מלוח (from melech, מלך, salt), is 'orache' and not 'mallow'.
  • The standard author abbreviation L. is used to indicate Carl Linnaeus (1707 – 1778), a Swedish botanist, physician, and zoologist, the father of modern taxonomy.
Atriplex halimus is a nutritious plant, high in protein, vitamins C, A, and D, and minerals such as chromium. It is also fairly tasty—shepherds as well as their flocks enjoy eating salt bush.
Fresh leaves and succulent stems of Atriplex halimus can be a crucial source of perennial fodder to camels (Camelus dromedarius). A study brought to light that Atriplex halimus diet (supplemented with barley) could meet the nutritional needs for growth and milk production in camels.
The fat sand rat (Psammomys obesus; Gerbillinae), a diurnal gerbillid rodent, is herbivorous and able to thrive while consuming only the saltbush Atriplex halimus, a plant relatively low in energy content and high in ash and water.
Atriplex halimus provides a stable diet throughout the year and fat sand rats have no competition for this food resource from other rodents. It has a high-electrolyte content.
The fat sand rats scrape the outer layer of Atriplex halimus leaves with their teeth before consuming them, thus removing much of the electrolytes. Consumption of Atriplex halimus fulfills the energy and water needs of Psammomys obesus. The rodents thrive on this plant primarily by the behavioral ability to remove electrolytes before consuming its leaves and by their ability to consume large quantities of it.

  • The Talmud refers to the orache as the food of the poor. In times of famine it was eaten both by shepherds and by their flocks.
  • Dioscorides (lib.i.121) describes Atriplex halimus as a kind of bramble, without thorns, and says that its leaves are boiled and eaten.
  • Galen of Pergamum (Greek: Γαληνός, Galēnos) (129 – 200/217 CE), says, that the tops, when young, are used for food.
  • Hesychius of Alexandria (῾Ησύχιος ὁ Ἀλεξανδρεύς), a grammarian who flourished probably in the 5th century CE, says: It grows in dry and desert places.
  • Serapion says, that at Bagdad quantities of this vegetable are hawked about; those who carry it, crying "molochia, molochia!" which is nearly the Hebrew word: and it is certain, from Franciscus Meninski, 1680 (Lexicon 3968), that the pot-herb which the Turks call " küsmechæt," " küsmelæt," and " müllach," is a species of halimus; probably the sea-orach.
  • Samuel Bochart (1599-1667), a French Protestant biblical scholar, quotes from Abenbitar, an Arabian author, a declaration that the plant which Dioscorides calls " halimus," is that which the Syrians call " maluch." The reasons which Bochart gives for supposing it the halimus, are,
    1) because the Syrians still call this plant by the same name;
    2) because the Hebrew name and the Greek άλιμος refer to the salt taste which the Arab writers attribute to this plant ;
    3) because as the maluach is described as the food of the wretched, so is the halimus in Athenaeus;
    4) because the LXX render מלוח by 'AΛIMA ; and (lastly) because it is described in Job as cropped upon the shrub, which exactly agrees with what the Arab writers say of the maluch or hulimus, namely, that they ate the tops of it.
  • H.B.Tristram (1822-1906) wrote: "We found thickets of it (Atriplex halimus) of considerable extent on the west side of the sea, and it exclusively supplied us with fuel for many days. It grows there to the height of ten feet- more than double its size on the Mediterranean.

    Bible resources:
    1. Job 30:4
      In the brush they gathered salt herbs, and their food[a] was the root of the broom bush.

    Atriplex halimus, Shrubby Saltbush, מלוח קיפח


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