Natural populations

Maireana brevifolia is a coloniser of disturbed environments. It is found in all mainland States, in light to heavy sometimes slight to moderately saline soil [30, 42]. The distribution is mainly concentrated in the extensive Murray Darling Basin, Flinders and Mount Lofty Ranges in South Australia and the wheatbelt in Western Australia.  It grows at higher elevation in saline landscapes compared to other saltbushes, on well-drained soils of low to high salinity [4].

Flowering and seeds

Flowering and fruiting mainly summer to autumn seasons. It produces a large number of seeds per plant. The seed germinates easily, particularly if the covering structure is removed prior to sowing [90]. It has been observed that seed loses its viability within one to two years of collection [4].

Cultivation and uses

Barnett-Lennard gives a provisional warning on the use of Maireana brevifolia (bluebush) in grazing programs: Hungry sheep should not be introduced to bluebush unless adequate other feed is available [4]. Farmers in many districts regularly graze sheep on bluebush in summer to late autumn, with pasture or stubble, to avoid poisoning by the oxalate (9-12%) in the leaves [4].

Key descriptors:

Climate parameters
Mean annual rainfall:   150-600 mm
Rainfall distribution pattern: uniform or winter
Mean annual temperature: 10-23 °C
Mean max. temperature of the hottest month: 25-37 °C
Mean min. temperature of the coldest month: 2-7 °C
Frosts (approx. no. per year): greater than 20
Frost intensity: light to moderate (0 to -5°C)
Altitude: 0-600 metres
Tolerance of extremes in climate
Drought: known to be moderately drought tolerant
Frost: tolerates frosts in the 0° to -5°C range
Soil factors
Texture: clay loam, light to medium clay (35-50% clay), loam, sandy loam, sandy clay loam or sand
Soil pH reaction: alkaline (greater than 7.5)
Drainage: well-drained
Salinity: slightly to moderately saline
Tolerance of adverse soils
Extremes in pH: alkalinity
Extremes in texture: sand
Salinity: moderate (-8 dS m-1)
Soil waterlogging tolerance: nil - sensitive to waterlogged soils
Biological traits under cultivation
Habit: evergreen shrub less than 2 m tall
Longevity: short-lived less than 15 years
Root system: shallow and spreading
Erosion control potential: excellent for sandy sites


[4] Barrett-Lennard EG (2003) Saltland Pastures in Australia: a practical guide. Land, Water & Wool: Sustainable Grazing on Saline Lands program, Australian Wool Innovation, Land & Water Australia, Sydney/Canberra.

[16] Walsh NG, Entwisle TJ (1994 - 1999) Flora of Victoria. Volume 2 - 4, Inkata Press, Melbourne.

[17] Cunningham GM, Mulham WE, Milthorpe PL, Leigh JH (1992) Plants of western New South Wales. Inkata Press, Port Melbourne, Victoria.

[18] Mitchell A, Wilcox D (1994) Arid shrubland plants of Western Australia. University of Western Australia Press, Perth.

[30] Wilson P (1975) A Taxonomic Revision of the genus Maireana (Chenopodiaceae). Nuytsia 2 (1): 47.

[42] Wilson, P.G. in George, A.S. (Ed) (1984) Flora of Australia 4: 188, CSIRO Publishing and the Australian Biological Resources Study, Canberra.

[87] Dooley T (2004) Saltbush for saline soils. Fact Sheet No 18/03, Primary Industries and Resources, South Australia. (Online Resource) (Accessed: February 2008)

[90] Flynn S, Turner RM, Dickie JB (2004) Seed Information Database (Release 7.0, October 2006). (Online database) (Accessed: July 2007).

Internet links

PlantNet NSW Flora Online – species description & distribution:

FloraBase Western Australia Flora Online – species description & distribution:

National Dryland Salinity Program – saltbush and bluebush fact sheet:

South Australia Flora Online – species description & distribution:

Saltdeck series:

Saltland Pastures Association – plants for saltland:

Western Australian Department of Agriculture - salinity tolerance of plants:

Western Australian Department of Agriculture - calculating saltbush seeding rates: