Plant of the Month – March 2015

NITRE-BUSH

(Nitraria billardierei)

(Photos: E. Cousins; habit, fruit, leaves; all at Cape Jervis)

The nitre-bush is sometimes called the Native Grape. The photo of its ripe fruit was taken in early February: they are grape-shaped, and red or yellow. The ones on this particular bush were plump, and very edible! They are only about 1cm long though, so you would need a lot to make a meal of them, especially since the seed inside itself is large compared to the fruit.

Birds also like the fruit, which helps to spread those seeds. The nitre-bush grows as a dense, stiff shrub, with long, arching, tangled stems. The leaves are an olive green colour, and fairly elongated; flowers are small and white. This shrub likes over-grazed and hot, saline areas, so does well at Cape Jervis, where it helps to stabilize dunes. In Australia there is only one species in the genus Nitraria, but other species exist overseas … makes one wonder how that came about!