Currant bush (Scaevola spinescens) in the Western Australian rangelands

Page last updated: Tuesday, 21 July 2020 - 3:50pm

Currant bush (Scaevola spinescens) is one of many plant species found in the Western Australian rangelands. This page provides a summary of the plant's value for pastoralism. Pastoral lessees and station managers can use this information to assess pasture condition and trend.

Indicator value

Vigorous populations of currant bush are an indicator of good pasture condition in coastal areas and on alluvial soils. Currant bush has proven to be a capable re-coloniser in areas that are now dominated by buffel grass, provided grazing is not excessive. 

Populations of the acutely spined forms of currant bush expand to infestation proportion at times, particularly near livestock water points. These spinier forms are restricted to stony inland soils that are saline in some degree. The weedy populations are considered to be the result of increased grazing pressure. These spinier forms of currant bush have little indicator value.

Forage value

Currant bush is palatable to livestock, particularly to sheep and goats. It is less palatable to kangaroos.

Habitat

Various soils.

General description

Currant bush is a variable shrub growing to about 3m in height under favourable circumstances, but to only about 1.2m in saline, stony upland areas. The branches are rigid and tangled. Leaves are clustered at bud nodes on the branches. New branches and the little spines characterising the plant develop from the bud nodes. The degree of spine development varies; the Gascoyne coast forms and most plants on the major river floodplains are not spined or have relatively short spines, whereas in the stony uplands, the plants have more spines with lots of branches.

The leaves are typically glossy, narrow to spoon-like and 1–3cm long. A smaller leaf size and less glossy appearance is associated with saline habitat and inland populations. The flowers are fan-shaped and cream-white, sometimes streaked with brown, purple or bronze marks. The fruits are single-seeded, purple to black berries about 5mm across.

Contact information

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