Three-winged bluebush (Maireana triptera) in the Western Australian rangelands

Page last updated: Tuesday, 21 July 2020 - 4:05pm

Three-winged bluebush (Maireana triptera) 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

Three-winged bluebush is an indicator of poor pasture condition where the population has expanded because it is an increaser under heavy grazing. Three-winged bluebush is a pioneering plant and is unlikely to outcompete recovering longer-lived and more-palatable bluebushes in the long term.

The indicator value of three-winged bluebush differs with the environment in which it grows. An abundance of three-winged bluebush in saltbush pasture and in gilgai associations indicates a substantial deterioration in pasture condition, yet it is considered an intermediate species below breakaways and in some sluggish saline upland drainage tracts. It is important to compare three-winged bluebush density with more palatable plants.

Forage value

Three-winged bluebush is not very drought tolerant and is markedly less palatable than most other bluebushes. Three-winged bluebush may be grazed to a limited extent in some circumstances. 

Habitat

Alkaline and saline soils, gilgai

General description

Three-winged bluebush is a dark, blue-green shrub that grows to about 50cm. The leaves are hairless, about 1cm long and succulent. The leaves are closely and alternately arranged. The dead leaf remnant remains attached to the inner branches of the plant to a greater degree than is usual in other bluebush species that can look similar (for example, golden bluebush). The flowers are very small and followed by lots of green and red fruit that turn black at maturity. The membranous wing structure on each seed case usually has 3 (up to 5) vertical wings that are fused to a flat horizontal wing about 8mm across. The horizontal wing has a single radial groove.

Contact information

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