Plant of the Month – March 2016

LEAFLESS BLUEBUSH

(Maireana aphylla)

 

maireana_aphylla(Photo: E. Cousins, Cape Jervis; habit, spiky stems, papery fruit)

We found this rare plant recently on the cliffs overlooking the lighthouse at Cape Jervis. Not a plant you would want to fall into if walking on those cliffs… it has no leaves but hard spines, or spikes, instead. (In Latin, ‘a’ means ‘without’, and ‘phylla’ means ‘leaves’, explaining the ‘aphylla’ in its name.) In the tough conditions it is living in, any defences probably help! The dull green shrubs we found were small, no more than knee high, though some sources say they grow to 1.5m!  The fruit are actually those small, pale apricot-coloured wings that look like flowers in the last picture above. The stems are striated, or grooved. You might be able to make these out in the centre picture. Let us know if you find them anywhere else on the peninsula!