Bladder saltbush

Page last updated: Friday, 25 August 2017 - 2:01pm

Bladder saltbush (Atriplex vesicaria) is one of many plant species found in the Western Australian rangelands. Identifying plant species can help pastoral lessees and station managers to assess pasture condition and trend.

Indicator value

Bladder saltbush is a reliable indicator of good pasture condition. It has a high drought tolerance, but will decrease under heavy grazing. Populations regenerate well on the Nullarbor, but are slow to recover in the Murchison and Gascoyne regions. Viable seed production occurs only over winter and recruitment of new plants is also restricted to winters with effective rainfall. Bladder saltbush is often restricted to areas more than about 3 kilometres from long-established livestock water points because of grazing pressure.

Forage value

Bladder saltbush is a valuable livestock feed, but will shed its leaves in long dry periods. The usefulness to livestock can be limited by a high salt load (up to 15%). Sheep and cattle will graze it readily, provided they have access to good quality drinking water.

Habitat

Salt lake margins, saline drainages, alkaline loams and clays

General description

Bladder saltbush is a low-growing shrub to 40–80cm. The stems become brittle and woody within 4–6 months. The leaves are fleshy when growing conditions are favourable, 1–2.5cm in length, and are carried on very short stalks. The leaves are oval and silver grey-green with a light grey mealy surface appearance. Male plants produce slender dense spikes with globular clusters of very small flowers at the ends of the youngest branches. Flowers on the female plants are borne in the upper leaf axils; these develop into leaf-like structures about 5mm across, usually with a pair of spongy appendages attached at the base.

Contact information

Matthew Fletcher
+61 (0)8 9166 4019
Kathryn Ryan
+61 (0)8 9166 4015