Halogeton [Halogeton glomeratus (M. Bieb.) C. Meyer][HALGL][CalEPPC: Red alert][CDFA list: A] Photographs Map of Distribution

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SYNONYMS: barilla, Anabasis glomeratus Bieb.

GENERAL DESCRIPTION: Erect winter to summer annual with small fleshy leaves, to 0.5 m tall. Halogeton typically invades disturbed arid and semi-arid sites with alkaline to saline soils. Plant tissues accumulate salts from lower soil horizons. The salts leach from dead plant material, increasing topsoil salinity and favoring halogeton seed germination and establishment. Some salt in the foliage consists of soluble oxalates toxic to livestock, especially sheep. Soluble oxalates cause an acute reduction in bloodstream calcium (hypocalcemia). Symptoms of poisoning include staggering and muscular spasms. Toxicity of plant material depends on environmental conditions, plant maturity, and the condition of livestock. As little as 12 ounces of foliage can be fatal to poorly nourished animals. Livestock supplemented with calcium fortified feeds are less susceptible to the toxic effects. Animals usually avoid consuming the bitter-tasting foliage if more suitable forage is available. Introduced from the cold desert regions of Eurasia.

SEEDLINGS: Cotyledons cylindrical, gradually narrowed to the +/- blunt apex, ~ 3-6 mm long, ~ 1 mm wide, glabrous. First leaves appear opposite, cylindrical, usually broadest near the tip, with tufts of long white interwoven hairs in the axils. Tips rounded, with a short bristle at the apex.

MATURE PLANT: Stems branched, often curved at the base, ascending to erect, +/- fleshy, usually tinged reddish or purple. Leaves alternate, sessile, dull green to bluish-green, fleshy, cylindrical, 4-22 mm long, ~1-2 mm wide, broadest at the apex. Apex bluntly rounded, tipped with a stiff bristle 1-2 mm long. Foliage glabrous, except for tufts of long white interwoven hairs in the leaf axils. Leaves deciduous or shriveled in fruit.

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ROOTS and UNDERGROUND STRUCTURES: Taproots grow slowly and can penetrate soil to depths of up to 50 cm. Lateral roots may spread up to 46 cm in all directions.

FLOWERS: June-September. Flower clusters numerous and dense in most leaf axils, small, head-like, with 0-3 bractlets 1.5-2 mm long below each cluster. Flowers bisexual and female (pistillate). Petals lacking. Sepals 5. Most flowers have petal-like sepals with narrow oblong bases 1-2 mm long and membranous fan-shaped tips 2-3.5 mm long. Fan-shaped tips greenish-yellow to red-tinged, conspicuously veined. Some flowers have bract-like sepals 2-3 mm long. Stamens 0 (pistillate flowers) or 2-5 (bisexual flowers).

FRUITS and SEEDS: August-October. Utricles (thin-walled one-seeded fruits) 1-2 mm long, enclosed by sepals. Fruits with sepals typically hide stems. Utricles loosely enclosed by fan-shaped sepals contain blackish-brown seeds and are commonly referred to as black seeds in the literature. Utricles tightly enclosed by adherent brown bract-like sepals contain brown seeds, and entire structures are referred to as brown seeds. Seeds +/- teardrop-shaped, often with 2 points, flattened, ~ 1-2 mm long, with a coiled embryo.

POSTSENESCENCE CHARACTERISTICS: Plants turn straw-colored when cool season frosts begin. Plants with some fruits, particularly those enclosed by bract-like sepals, may remain intact through winter.

HABITAT: Disturbed open sites, dry lakebeds, shrublands, roadsides, typically where native vegetation is sparse. Inhabits arid and semi-arid regions, especially where winters are cold. Grows on many soil types, but is adapted to alkaline and saline soils with at least 5800 ppm of sodium chloride.

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DISTRIBUTION: Abundance depends on yearly rainfall amounts. Great Basin (e Modoc, e Lassen, Mono, n Inyo cos.), Mojave Desert (s Inyo, e Kern, ne Los Angeles, w & ne San Bernardino cos.), northern Sierra Nevada (c Placer, e Nevada cos.); to Idaho, Colorado, Nevada. Previous infestations now eradicated occurred in the Cascade range (c Siskiyou Co.). To 1800 m (5900 ft).

PROPAGATION/PHENOLOGY: Reproduces by seed. Plants typically produce enormous quantities of seed (average is ~ 75 seeds per inch of stem). Seeds disperse with wind, water, human activities, seed-gathering ants, animals, and when dry plants break off at ground level and tumble with the wind. Many seeds survive ingestion by animals, including sheep and rabbits. Plants produce 2 types of seed depending on photoperiod. Black seeds typically develop after mid-August, lack or have a short after-ripening period, and remain viable for ~ 1 year. Brown seeds usually develop before mid-August, are dormant at maturity, and can survive for ~ 10 years or more under field conditions. Experimental evidence suggests that the bract-like sepals enforce dormancy of brown seeds. Cool moist vernalization appears to enhance germination of brown seeds by decomposing the adherent sepals. Plants typically produce more black seeds than brown, but the ratio varies according to environmental conditions. Most black seeds are shed by early November. Brown seeds may remain on plants until February. Most seeds germinate late fall to early spring in cold winter areas, but some germination can occur year round when conditions become favorable. Black seeds can imbibe water and germinate in less than 1 hour.

MANAGEMENT FAVORING/DISCOURAGING SURVIVAL: Halogeton competes poorly with established perennial vegetation. Overgrazing, human disturbance, and fire typically reduce desirable vegetation and increase open sites with bare soil, encouraging invasion and establishment of halogeton. Fire disturbance often enhances seed germination and favors the growth of dense stands.

SIMILAR SPECIES: Before flowering halogeton resembles immature Russian thistle [Salsola tragus L.] or kochia [Kochia scoparia (L.) Schrader]. Unlike halogeton, immature Russian thistle has linear leaves ~ 0.5-1 mm wide and lacks hairs in the axils. Kochia has pubescent leaves that do not have a stiff bristle at the tip. In addition, Russian thistle seeds are cone-shaped.


Prevention: Halogeton glomeratus is a fleshy annual that is found on alkaline desert soils in disturbed areas such as roadsides, mining areas, and heavily overgrazed ranges. It is highly toxic to grazing animals but has historically been most problematic to sheep in the Great Basin, requiring as little as 1.5 pounds of green plant forage for death. Prevention on grazing lands is best accomplished by maintaining good perennial grass and shrub cover and reducing or eliminating grazing and disturbance during the spring growing season. Halogeton is well adapted to edaphically severe sites such as mine spoils. Since many heavily disturbed desert sites are very difficult to revegetate, prevention around these areas must include early detection and rapid response to initial halogeton invaders.

Mechanical: Tillage will effectively control halogeton. However, it is best to avoid increasing disturbance unless successful restoration of perennials is highly probable.

Biological: There are no currently registered biocontrol agents available for halogeton. Previously, a stem boring moth (Coleophora porthenica) was released but never successfully established.

Chemical: 2,4-D was used historically at rates of 2.2 -6.7 kg ae/ha to control halogeton. However, injury to native shrubs and a lack of desirable forage species adapted to alkali conditions resulted in reduced widespread 2,4-D use. Current recommendations include 2,4-D applied at 1.1-2.2 kg ae/ha to young plants in the spring prior to the bloom stage in conjunction with revegetation. Tebuthiuron will provide total vegetative control for up to 3-5 years. Metsulfuron, which is not currently labeled in California, is also effective at 0.49 oz ai/ha.

Plant Competition: Nonnative forage species including Kochia prostrata, Agropyron desertorum and A. cristatum have been successfully used to reseed infested areas. Crested wheatgrass is very competitive and my strongly suppress or eliminate halogeton. Saline adapted hybrids are most effective due to the sensitivity of crested wheatgrass to highly saline conditions.

Cook, C. W. 1965. Grass seedling response to halogeton competition. Journal of Range Management 18:317-321.
Cook, C. W. and L. A. Stoddart. 1953. The halogeton problem in Utah. Utah State Agricultural Experiment Station Bulletin 364.
Cronin E. H. 1965. Ecological and physiological factors influencing chemical control of Halogeton glomeratus. USDA Technical Bulletin No. 1325, Washington, D.C.
Cronin, E. H. and M. C. Williams. 1966. Principles for managing ranges infested with halogeton. Journal of Range Management 19:226-227.
Pemberton, R. W. 1986. The distribution of halogeton in North America. Journal of Range Management 39:281-282.
Sebastian, J. R. and K. G. Beck 1993. Halogeton control with metsulfuron, dicamba, picloram and 2,4-D in Colorado rangeland. Western Society of Weed Science Progress Report, Pp. 29-30.

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