Felty leaf bluebush (Maireana tomentosa) in the Western Australian rangelands

Page last updated: Tuesday, 6 July 2021 - 12:04pm

Felty leaf bluebush (Maireana tomentosa) 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

Healthy bluebush pastures that are in good pasture condition will contain felty leaf bluebush as a small component of the palatable plant biomass, but it is not a good indicator of condition on its own. Felty leaf bluebush is an intermediate species that is a useful indicator of the intensity of grazing pressure in any season. Where pasture has been degraded through past overuse, an increase in felty leaf bluebush in exposed positions is an indication that pasture condition is improving.

Forage value

Felty leaf bluebush has a relatively short lifespan and it can increase rapidly under optimal conditions. It is a highly palatable and valued forage plant. The plants dry rapidly at the end of the growing season, but continue to respond to irregular light rainfall in dry times. 

Habitat

Floodplains, saline and sodic soils, mulga woodland

General description

Felty leaf bluebush is a low shrub of variable appearance. Two distinct forms are commonly present in saline undulating country: an upright and intensely silver-green form on sandier soils, and a compact, darker green form on adjacent surfaces that are lower in the landscape and have more sodic soils. Plants can grow to 50 cm, but some varieties in sodic soils will only grow to 30 cm. The leaves can be up to 12 mm long by about 2 mm. The leaf is fleshy to succulent. Leaves and stems have a felty, dense covering of short, fine hairs. The flowers are very small. The mature seeds are about 2 mm across, with a translucent, straw-coloured wing 8–10 mm across. 

Silky bluebush (Maireana villosa) can have a similar appearance to felty leaf bluebush, but the wing on the fruit has a single slit in it.

Contact information

Kath Ryan
+61 (0)8 9166 4015
Wayne Fletcher
+61 (0)8 9690 2135