Basic Information
Common Name: Parish Brittlescale
Scientific Name: Atriplex parishii
Species Code: ATRPAR
Management Category: VF (species with limited distribution in the MSPA or needing specific vegetation characteristics requiring management)
Occurrence Map
Table of Occurrences

Goals and Objectives

Goal: Maintain, enhance and restore alkali playa vegetation communities on Conserved Lands in the MSPA that supports or has the potential to support VF species (i.e., Coulter's saltbush, Parish's brittlescale, southern tarplant) so that the vegetation community has high ecological integrity, and these species are resilient to environmental stochasticity, catastrophic disturbances and threats, such as very large wildfires, invasive plants and prolonged drought, and will be likely to persist over the long term (>100 years).

regional and/or local NFO 2018 VF

Management units: 5

In 2018, inspect occurrences of alkali playa MSP VF plant species (i.e., Coulter's saltbush, Parish's brittlescale, southern tarplant) on Conserved Lands using the regional IMG monitoring protocol to record abundance and collect habitat and threat covariate data to determine management needs.

Action Statement Action status Projects
IMP-1 Based upon occurrence status and threats, determine management needs including whether routine management or more intensive management is warranted. on hold
IMP-2 Submit project metadata, monitoring datasets and management recommendations to the MSP Web Portal. on hold
Criteria Deadline year
Surveys Completed 2018 with Management Recommendations 2021
Threat Name Threat Code
Altered hydrologyALTHYD
Human uses of the PreservesHUMUSE
Invasive plantsINVPLA
Urban developmentURBDEV
2021-2026 Rare Plant Regional Discovery Surveys
Starting in 2021, surveys were conducted on suitable habitat on Conserved Lands to document whether historic plant occurrences were extant and to discover new occurrences for rare plant species. The purpose of these surveys is to refine and update the distribution of these plants in the Management and Monitoring Strategic Plan Area. Voucher specimens and photographs are taken for each occurrence. Some species are already part of the Rare Plant Inspect and Manage Program and any new occurrences for these species will be included in future monitoring. In the next update of the Management and Monitoring Strategic Plan (2027), species not formerly monitored will be evaluated and potentially added to the Rare Plant Inspect and Manage Program. Botanists surveyed for four rare plant species in 2021: San Diego coastalcreeper (Aphanisma blitoides), Blochman’s dudleya (Dudleya blochmaniae), coast wallflower (Erysimum ammophilum), and Orcutt’s bird’s-beak (Dicranostegia orcuttiana). In 2022, botanists surveyed for: San Diego coastalcreeper (Aphanisma blitoides), Baja California oat grass (Sphenopholis interrupta ssp californica), San Diego ambrosia (Abrosia pumila), Wiggins’ cryptantha (Crytantha wigginsii). In 2023, botanists will survey for five rare plant species: Deane’s milkvetch (Astragalus deanei), Parish brittlescale (Atriplex parishii), Mexican flannelbush (Fremontodendron mexicanum), Jennifer’s monardella (Monardella stoneana ), and small-leaved rose (Rosa minutifolia).
File name Lead Author Year Type
MSP Roadmap Dec 31, 2016: VF Species and Vegetation Goals, Objectives, and Actions San Diego Management and Monitoring Program 2016 other

Current Distribution Rangewide

Southern California and is thought to occur in Baja California, Mexico, but historic populations are unconfirmed [1, 2]. Was considered to be extinct until rediscovered in Hemet California, Riverside County in 1993 [3]. In 2001 it was rediscovered in the Ramona Grassland Preserve just outside the City of Ramona [4]. This species is currently known from 14 occurrences [4].

Known Populations in San Diego County

A few populations near Elfin Forest and a few localities in Ramona [4]. Within the MSPA in MU5: a few small populations in the Ramona Grassland Preserve and is associated with a small number of vernal pools on Cagney Ranch (The Nature Conservancy property) and MU6: between the cities of Olivenhain and Elfin Forest [5].

List Status

None [1].

Habitat Affinities

Alkaline habitats associated with alkali soils in vernal pools and annual grassland habitats, alkali playa and alkali scrub components of alkali vernal plains [6]. Elevation range is from sea level to less than 480 meters [7].

Taxonomy and Genetics

Amaranthaceae family (formerly in the Chenopodiaceae) [7]. Historically was considered most closely related to A. subtilis, A. miniscula, and A. depressa of the Central Valley however, these forms were separated based on differences in stature, leaf, and bract shape in 1993. Chromosome number is 2n=18. Taxonomic reevaluation indicates this species is only from southern California.

Life History Demography

Low growing annual, with small overlapping white-scaly ovate to cordate leaves and brittle stems generally less than two decimeters long [7]. The flower is obscure and borne in hard clusters with male flowers mostly in the upper leaf axils and female flowers mostly in the lower leaf axils [8].

Seasonal Phenology

Flowers from June to October [1]. The reddish-brown seeds are about 1 to 2 mm long, encased in a diamond shaped fruiting bract which is fused near the tip [7].

Pollination Seed Dispersal

The genus Atriplex is most likely wind pollinated but can also self-pollinate (cleistogomy) under certain conditions [9]. Seeds are thought to be dispersed by wind [10]. More detailed information is needed to understand the pollination and dispersal for this species.


Threatened by habitat destruction and fragmentation from urban and agricultural development, alteration of hydrology and floodplain dynamics including excessive flooding and channelization, off-road vehicle activity, trampling by cattle and sheep, weed abatement and fire suppression practices (including discing and plowing), and competition from non-native plant species [6,11].

Special Considerations:

Parish's brittlescale is declining throughout its range. It has a patchy distribution within this habitat and its spatial distribution shifts over time as conditions and seed banks change [12]. There is a considerable variability in population size from year to year depending upon rainfall and local flooding and therefore, may not be detectable every year [12]. It’s likely that this species requires significantly more habitat than is occupied during any one season to maintain population dynamics within the watershed and the microhabitat conditions which this taxon depends [11]. Parish’s brittlescale is small, easily overlooked, and its habitat is often mistaken for being highly disturbed late in the dry season [6]. Much of the remaining suitable habitat for this species has been impacted by discing for fuel modification and dry land farming activities [3,4].

Literature Sources

[1] California Native Plant Society, Rare Plant Program. 2016. Inventory of Rare and Endangered Plants (online edition, v8-02). California Native Plant Society, Sacramento, CA. Available: Accessed November 7, 2016.

[2] Wiggins, I. L. 1980. Flora of Baja California. Stanford University Press.

[3] Reiser, C.H. 2001. Rare Plants of San Diego County. Imperial Beach, CA: Aquafir Press.

[4] Calflora: Information on California Plant for Education, Research and Conservation, with Data Contributed by Public and Private Institutions and Individuals, including the Consortium of California Herbaria. 2016. Berkeley, CA: The Calflora Database. Available: Accessed: November 7, 2016.

[5] MSP-MOM. 2014. Management Strategic Plan Master Occurrence Matrix. San Diego, CA. Available:

[6] Bramlet, D. 1993. Plant Species of Special Concern in the Alkaline Sinks of the San Jacinto River and the Old Salt Creek Tributary Area. Unpublished report.

[7] Zacharias, E.H. 2016. Atriplex parishii, Revision 1, in Jepson Flora Project (eds) Jepson eFlora, Available: Accessed on November 07, 2016.

[8] Munz, P.A. 1974. A Flora of Southern California. Berkeley: University of California Press.

[9] Blackwell, W.H. and M.J. Powell. 1981. A Preliminary Note on Pollination in the Chenopodiaceae. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden vol. 68 No. 4: 524-526

[10] Rand, T.A. 2000. Seed Dispersal, Habitat Suitability and the Distribution of Halophytes Across a Salt Marsh Tidal Gradient. Journal of Ecology 88 (4): 608-621

[11] U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1998. Determination of Endangered or Threatened Status for Four Southwestern California Plants from Vernal Wetlands and Clay Soils. Federal Register 63: 54975.

[12] Roberts, F.M., and B. McMillan. 1997. San Jacinto Valley Crownscale (Atriplex coronata var. notatior), 1997 status update. Unpubl. report. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Carlsbad, CA.