Plant of the month – Oct 2017


(Atriplex vesicaria)

(Photos: C. Schultz, sprawling bushes in the foreground; close up of leaves and male flowers)

As their name suggests, saltbushes have a high salt content. They can survive in harsh saline environments. Their ability to survive in a variety of conditions has lead to their becoming part of the diet of many animals…including lamb! Sheep and cattle will graze bladder saltbush readily. This small shrub will grow less than 1 metre tall, but can sprawl. The leaves are quite fleshy unless growing conditions are dry, when leaves might be shed. The grey-green appearance of the oval-shaped, short stemmed leaves is often a give-away for this (and other) saltbushes; leaf margins can be wavy. When you go looking for this one, you will need to look for two versions: the male and the female! The bushes are the same, but the flowers are different. Look for slender but dense spikes of tiny flowers on the newest branches of the male; on the female form, the flowers look more leaf-like, and are about 5mm across.