Pearl bluebush (Maireana sedifolia) in the Western Australian rangelands

Page last updated: Wednesday, 29 April 2020 - 4:33pm

Pearl bluebush (Maireana sedifolia) 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

Pearl bluebush is a desirable forage plant, but is not a sensitive indicator of change in pasture condition. It is an extremely hardy plant and is reputed to live up to 300 years. New plants are rare. Large areas of the Nullarbor Plain have been stripped of this plant by the combined effects of repeated bush fires and grazing by rabbits. Pearl bluebush will decline under heavy grazing.

Forage value

Pearl bluebush has a high protein and salt content and is eaten by livestock if fresh water is available.

Regeneration

The ability of pearl bluebush to regenerate from fire and cope with arid conditions has allowed it to become a dominant climax species. Pearl bluebush has deep roots, grows slowly and is long-lived (>200 yrs). Pearl bluebush will tolerate a ‘cool’ fire, but recovery is slow; it can be killed by a hot fire. Regeneration is difficult and usually requires a number of consecutive favourable seasons for re-establishment to occur.

Habitat

Deep, alkaline loam or clay soils

General description

Pearl bluebush is a compact, bluish-grey shrub which grows to 1.5m. It often forms dense clumps, consisting of many individual plants. The leaves are 4–8mm long and succulent. They have rounded tips and are covered in very short white hairs. There are separate male and female plants. Flowers appear in late spring, following late winter rain. Pearl bluebush does not always produce seed after flowering. The single seed is enclosed in an oval seed case and has a fine, straw-coloured wing about 10mm wide.

Contact information

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