Friday, 1 May 2009

Halophytes

Halophytes are plants that are found on coastlines and also on the drier lands of Australia where salt is present in the soil. These plants absorb the salt from the soil and excrete it into the surface of their leaves. The saltiness acts as a pest deterrent.

This saltiness can be removed by boiling the leaves and most of the Halophytes are edible.
Included in this group of plants are Atriplex, Rhagodia, Enchylaena, Einadia (the saltbushes), samphires and Wallaby Bush Threlkeldia diffusa.

I have 2 of these growing in my garden that are native to our region of South Australia.



The first is the Fragrant Saltbush Rhagodia parabolica which I am growing as a hedge in the front garden. It is also known as Mealy Saltbush.

At present I am collecting the fruits off these plants which I'll dry and remove the seeds to grow some plants to put in the new chicken area. I need some lower growing, fruiting plants and these are ideal.

The chooks (also native birds) love the fruits and the plants grow quickly on very little water to provide shady spots for the girls.

I have also heard (but haven't yet tried) that the dried leaves if this saltbush can be ground and used as a salt substitute.

I found a new Ladybird Micraspis furcifera on the Fragrant Saltbush. Being natives of our region these plants are very useful for beneficial insect attraction.



On the other side of the driveway I have another saltbush growing Enchylaena tomentosa often called Ruby Saltbush. This is a very different plant, having quite succulent leaves. Grey in colour these plants are very tolerant of our hot, dry climate.

I considered these plants to be weeds until I found out their usefulness as food for the native birds here (not to mention the chickens). Now these plants are encouraged but still controlled, as they grow without additional water.



I have a yellow fruiting variety of Enchylaena tomentosa that is growing in the Almond area chicken run. The seeds of this plant were obtained through the Seed Savers Network a few years ago. The chickens and native birds love the berries on this plant too. The chickens just about defoliate the plant if given the opportunity.

Both these plants are members of the Chenopodiaceae family and tolerate our hot, dry summers and cold winters with frosts down to -6C

More information
Plants For A Future
Wild Food Plants of Australia by Tim Low See Here

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