FACT SHEET: Winterfat

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Common Name: Winterfat
Other Common Names: Whitesage
Scientific Name: Ceratoides lanata
Synonyms: Eurotia lanata, Krascheninnikovia lanata
Family: Goosefoot Family (Chenopodiaceae)
Distribution: common and widely distributed in western North America
Habitat: desert and foothill habitats

Habit: shrub
Height: 1-3?
Spread: 1-3'
Foliage Color: pale silvery green
Leaves: fine texture, fuzzy, narrowly lance-shaped, margins rolled under
Flower Color: silver
Flower Form: male flowers above female flowers in terminal spikes, inconspicuous, female flowers borne inside four bracts with long silky hairs
Flowering Season: late summer into fall

Cultural Requirements: Requires full sun and prefers well-drained, infertile soils. Fully cold-hardy. Very drought-hardy, intolerant of overwatering.

Culture: Winterfat seeds are borne in one-seeded fruits enclosed in four silky bracts. Many of the fruits are unfilled. Filled fruits can be selected by pinching the bracts gently and feeling for the plump seed inside. The seeds are best left in these bracts, as removing them can damage the delicate radicle region. The seeds may be somewhat dormant at harvest but soon become germinable in storage. They are short-lived, and should be stored well-dried and planted within a year of collection. Winterfat grows quickly and is readily produced as container stock. It also comes readily from direct seeding in autumn soon after harvest, as long as there is not too much competition from grasses.

Uses and Notes of Interest: Winterfat is one of the dominant shrub species in the cold deserts of the Intermountain West, often forming pure stands in dry desert valleys where the soil is fine and not too salty, and also occurs with sagebrush and juniper in the foothills. It is a nutritious and palatable forage plant for domestic sheep in winter, hence the common name. Its main attractions as a landscape plant are silvery foliage, elegant drooping habit, and lovely, luminous fruiting bracts that may occur in great abundance and give the whole plant a shining appearance, especially in backlight. Its seeds are readily collected by hand-stripping. Be sure to wait until they ripen in late fall.