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Bungwalbin Hill, WA

Border Village, SA

cultivated, dryland Chile

foliage, buds

Natural populations

Atriplex nummularia is widespread across much of drylands of central and southern Australia [1]. It extends from the wheatbelt region of Western Australia, across the inland deserts of Northern Territory and South Australia and to the rangelands of western New South Wales and central Queensland. This species is a shrub, multi-stemmed from or near ground level, up to 3 m tall x 4 m wide. It often occurs in pure stands on limestone plains or alluvial floodplains, but may be found in a range habitats, including as an understorey species in eucalypt woodlands [1, 2].

Flowering and seeds

Flowering in this species occurs usually during winter months, but flowering may occur at other times of the year depending on seasonal conditions [2]. Seeds mature during spring. Heavy seed crops are often common in this species.  There are about 3 viable seeds per gram [3]. Rinsing seeds in flowing water for about an hour improves germination. The seeds start to germinate in about 6 days if grown at 25°C [3].

Cultivation and uses

Atriplex nummularia has become commonly cultivated as a source of stock fodder and is being investigated for its potential to also address dryland salinity in southern Australia [4]. It is a relatively fast growing shrub adapted to alkaline soils and can be grown on sites affected by salinity and periodic inundation. It is moderately frost and drought tolerant. Its foliage is highly palatable to stock despite its high salt content and variable palatability. Natural populations are one of the most important fodder plants of the Australian rangelands. It is also used overseas as a fodder plant in countries such as Chile. Australian Aborigines used the seeds as a traditional food source. The wood is considered to have potential as craftwood and the bark of this species has a high tannin content.

Key descriptors:
Climate parameters
Mean annual rainfall: 230-650 mm
Rainfall distribution pattern: summer, uniform or winter
Mean annual temperature: 15-24 °C
Mean max. temperature of the hottest month: 32-37 °C
Mean min. temperature of the coldest month: 3-7 °C
Frosts (approx. no. per year): frost free or more or less frost free or up to 20
Frost intensity: light to moderate (0 to -5°C)
Altitude: 0-400 metres
Tolerance of climate extremes
Drought: known to be moderately drought tolerant or known to be tolerant of protracted droughts
Fire: regenerates foliage after damaging fire
Frost: tolerates frosts in the 0° to -5°C range
Wind: known or has attributes to make an excellent windbreak or tolerates salt-laden coastal winds
Soil factors
Texture: clay loam, duplex texture contrast soils, heavy clay (greater than 50% clay), light to medium clay (35-50% clay), loam, sandy loam, sandy clay loam or sand
Soil pH reaction: neutral (6.5-7.5) or alkaline (greater than 7.5)
Soil depth: skeletal to shallow (less than 30 cm) or moderate to deep (30-100 cm or greater)
Drainage: well-drained, poorly to imperfectly drained or seasonally waterlogged
Salinity: highly saline or 2. slightly to moderately saline
Tolerance of adverse soils
Extremes in pH: alkalinity
Extremes in texture: clayey
Salinity: extremely high (> 16 dS m-1), high (9-16 dS m-1), moderate (-8 dS m-1) or slight (2-4 dS m-1)
Soil waterlogging tolerance: nil - sensitive to waterlogged soils or drainage may be sluggish at times
Biological traits under cultivation
Habit: evergreen, shrub less than 2 m tall or with multiple stems from or near ground level
Longevity: moderate to long lived (>15 years) or short-lived less than 15 years
Growth rate: fast or moderate
Coppicing ability: vigorous, responds to pruning, pollarding
Root system: moderate to deep
Erosion control potential: excellent for clayey sites or excellent for sandy sites
Windbreak potential: excellent (known or has good attributes) or tolerates salty coastal winds
Wood density: mod. to high (greater than 600 kg/cubic metre)
Carbon sequestration potential: moderate
Uses
Potential farm use: excellent windbreak, shelterbelt or shade for stock, foliage has stock fodder potential
Specialty products: seeds are edible (used traditionally by Aborigines)
Urban use: suitable as a screen or hedge
Wildlife value: a critical food source for at least one species
Wood products: high quality fuelwood
Potentially undesirable attributes
Foliage: highly susceptible to browsing by animals
Weediness: high potential based on its biology

References

[1] Wilson PG (1984) In George AS (ed.) Flora of Australia 4: 130-131.

[2] Cunningham GM, Mulham WE, Milthorpe PL, Leigh JH (1992) Plants of Western New South Wales, Inkata Press.

[3] Gunn BV (2001) Australian Tree Seed Centre Operations Manual. Internal Publication, CSIRO Australian Tree Seed Centre, ACT. [Online at http://www.ensisjv.com/Portals/0/atsc-opmanualcomplete.pdf  Accessed March 2008]

[4] Hobbs TJ, Bennell M, Huxtable D, Bartle J, Neumann C, George N, O'Sullivan W (2006) 'FloraSearch Agroforestry Species and Regional Industries: Low rainfall farm forestry options for southern Australia.' A report for the Joint Venture Agroforestry Program and CRC for Plant-based Management of Dryland Salinity. RIRDC Publication No 06/

Internet links

Alice Spings Town Council: http://www.alicesprings.nt.gov.au/community/environment/recommended_native_plants

Australia's Virtual Herbarium Map Interface: http://avh.dec.wa.gov.au/cgi-bin/avh.cgi

eFloraSA Electronic Flora of South Australia: http://www.flora.sa.gov.au/cgi-bin/texhtml.cgi?form=speciesfacts&family=&genus=Atriplex&species=nummularia&iname=&submit=Search

FloraBase Western Australian Herbarium: http://florabase.calm.wa.gov.au/browse/profile/2469

PlantNET National Herbarium of New South Wales: http://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/NSWfl.pl?page=nswfl&lvl=sp&name=Atriplex~nummularia

National Dryland Salinity Program – saltbush and bluebush fact sheet: http://www.ndsp.gov.au/library/scripts/objectifyMedia.aspx?file=pdf/34/16.pdf&siteID=5&str_title=EF020417.pdf

Saltdeck series: http://downloads.lwa2.com/downloads/publications_pdf/PB061190.41.pdf

Saltland Pastures Association – plants for saltland: http://www.crcsalinity.com/spa/plants.htm

Western Australian Department of Agriculture - salinity tolerance of plants: http://www.plantstress.com/Articles/salinity_m/salinity_m_files/salt%20tol%20australia.htm

Western Australian Department of Agriculture - calculating saltbush seeding rates: http://159.207.224.130/content/LWE/VEGT/FN081_1991.HTM

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