Atriplex semibaccata (Australian saltbush)
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature
- Plant Type
- Distribution Table
- History of Introduction and Spread
- Risk of Introduction
- Habitat List
- Biology and Ecology
- Air Temperature
- Rainfall Regime
- Soil Tolerances
- Natural enemies
- Notes on Natural Enemies
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Pathway Causes
- Pathway Vectors
- Impact Summary
- Economic Impact
- Environmental Impact
- Threatened Species
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Uses List
- Similarities to Other Species/Conditions
- Prevention and Control
- Gaps in Knowledge/Research Needs
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Atriplex semibaccata R. Br.
Preferred Common Name
- Australian saltbush
Other Scientific Names
- Atriplex denticulata Moq.
- Atriplex flagellaris Wooton & Standl
- Atriplex neurivalvis Domin
- Atriplex semibaccata var. appendiculata Aellen
- Atriplex semibaccata var. biformis Aellen
- Atriplex semibaccata var. gracilis Aellen
- Atriplex semibaccata var. melanocarpa Aellen
- Atriplex semibracteata Steud.
- Atriplex stuckertii Gand.
International Common Names
- English: berry saltbush; creeping saltbush; diamond saltbush; half-berry saltbush
- Spanish: morenita rastrera (Argentina); pasto salado; pasto salobre (Chile)
- Portuguese: alfalfa-arbórea
Local Common Names
- Germany: Australischer Salzbusch
- ATXSE (Atriplex semibaccata)
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
A. semibaccata is a low-growing shrub native to Australia. It is valued as a fodder plant and, along with many other Atriplex species, has been introduced around the world as a drought and salt tolerant forage. It was introduced to the USA where it has escaped cultivation and is now invasive in coastal grasslands, scrub and saline area, where it can form a dense cover inhibiting the growth of native plants. The California Invasive Plant Council classifies its potential impact on native ecosystems as moderate and control and eradication of this species appears possible. Many other Atriplex species are beginning to be reported as somewhat invasive in other parts of the world and the genus merits further attention in this regard.
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Spermatophyta
- Subphylum: Angiospermae
- Class: Dicotyledonae
- Order: Caryophyllales
- Family: Chenopodiaceae
- Genus: Atriplex
- Species: Atriplex semibaccata
Notes on Taxonomy and NomenclatureTop of page
A. semibaccata is one of many species in the large Atriplex genus, in the Chenopodiaceae family which includes many salt-tolerant (halophytic) plants. It is also one of the most commonly planted Atriplex species, each being generally considered as having well-defined species limits and are rarely confused taxonomically.
A number of varieties of A. semibaccata are reported including var. appendiculata, var. biformis, var. gracilis, var. melanocarpa and var. microcarpa (The Plant List, 2013), indicating considerable morphological variation within the species. However, CSIRO (2007) refer to two forms only in Australia, its native range, based on the fruiting bracteoles. One form has thin dry and deltoid bracteoles and is found in Queensland and New South Wales, whereas rhomboid and succulent bracteoles are found in Western Australia and southern areas. A. semibaccata is also noted to hybridize with A. spinibractea in New South Wales and this may have led to the variant with dry bracteoles in northern Queensland described as A. neurivalvis[A. semibaccata] (CSIRO, 2007).
A. semibaccata was one of seven species analysed for genetic variability using molecular markers (other species include A. amnicola, A. canescens, A. halimus, A. lentiformis, A. nummularia and A. undulata). Phylogenetic analysis confirmed the divergence of A. semibaccata from all other species and the closeness of A. lentiformis to A. halimus (Bouda et al., 2008). Intraspecies variability was also high and genetic diversity was greater among species (60%) than among individuals (40%) (Bouda et al., 2008).
The common name for this species is Australian saltbush, although it is not the only Atriplex species native to Australia.
There are many references especially in the USA, but also in southern Africa, to unidentified Atriplex sp., Atriplex spp. or simply referring to ‘saltbush’ which may or may not include A. semibaccata.
DescriptionTop of page
The following description is adapted from Flora of North America Editorial Committee (2015).
A. semibaccata is a spreading perennial herb or subshrub, decumbent-prostrate, unarmed, up to 80 cm tall, with individual plants having diameters up to 1.5 m wide, occasionally to 2 m, unarmed and branches not angled. Leaves white scurfy when young, alternate, subsessile or short petiolate; blade 1-veined, spatulate or obovate to oblong or elliptic, mainly 5-30(-40) × 2-9(-12) mm, base attenuate, margin remotely dentate to subentire, apex obtuse. Staminate flowers in small, terminal, leaf-bracteate glomerules 1.5 mm wide. Pistillate flowers solitary or in few-flowered clusters in almost all but distal most leaves. Fruiting bracteoles red-fleshy at maturity, sessile or short stipitate, strongly veined, rhombic, convex, 3-6.6 × 2.8-4.5 mm, united at base, margin toothed, apex obtuse to acute. Seeds dimorphic: black, 1.5-1.7 mm, or brown, 2 mm.
Plant TypeTop of page
DistributionTop of page
A. semibaccata is native to southern parts of Australia (Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria, 2015; USDA-ARS, 2015). It is widespread in the eastern and southern Australian states, with a separate population in Western Australia and scattered occurrences in central arid areas. Its presence in Tasmania and some mainland areas for grazing in saline areas are considered to be introductions (CSIRO, 2007). Informal reference to two forms is given in the Flora of Australia based on the fruiting bracteoles (see Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature section).
A. semibaccata is one of many Atriplex species that have been introduced around the world as a drought and salt tolerant fodder crop. It has been introduced into North America, North Africa, the Horn of Africa, the Middle East and also in parts of southern Africa, the Arabian peninsula and southern Europe.
Distribution TableTop of page
The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.Last updated: 10 Jan 2020
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|Cabo Verde||Present||Introduced||Original citation: Sandys-Winsch and Harris (1992)|
|United States||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-California||Present||Introduced||Invasive||invasive in coastal grasslands and scrub, and the higher ground of salt marshes|
|-District of Columbia||Present||Introduced|
|-New South Wales||Present, Widespread||Native|
|-Northern Territory||Present, Few occurrences||Native|
|-South Australia||Present, Widespread||Native|
|-Tasmania||Present, Few occurrences||Native|
|-Western Australia||Present, Widespread||Native|
History of Introduction and SpreadTop of page
A. semibaccata was first reported as introduced to the USA in 1901, when it was planted as livestock forage in alkaline areas in California starting in Tulare County. Seeds were then distributed throughout the state. By 1916, it had become abundant in San Diego and by 1940 it was common on the south coast and infrequently inland to Imperial and San Bernardino counties and the Salinas Valley (Cal-IPC, 2015). Today, it is most widespread in the Mojave and Sonoran deserts and arid parts of the South Coast, Central Coast, San Francisco Bay Area and Central Valley as far north as Glenn County, as well as coastal areas and coastal salt marshes from San Diego to Mendocino County.
IntroductionsTop of page
|Introduced to||Introduced from||Year||Reason||Introduced by||Established in wild through||References||Notes|
|Natural reproduction||Continuous restocking|
|USA||Australia||1901||Yes||No||Cal-IPC (California Invasive Plant Council) (2015)|
Risk of IntroductionTop of page
A. semibaccata was promoted as groundcover in arid areas, for erosion control and to attract birds. It is also highly valued as a dryland fodder and as such, it is highly likely that further introductions will be made (Cal-IPC, 2015). It is also possible that seeds of this species may accidentally be introduced into new areas as a seed contaminant (Cal-IPC, 2015).
Habitat ListTop of page
|Terrestrial||Managed||Cultivated / agricultural land||Present, no further details||Productive/non-natural|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Managed grasslands (grazing systems)||Present, no further details||Productive/non-natural|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Natural grasslands||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Natural grasslands||Present, no further details||Natural|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Natural grasslands||Present, no further details||Productive/non-natural|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Deserts||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Deserts||Present, no further details||Natural|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Deserts||Present, no further details||Productive/non-natural|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Arid regions||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Arid regions||Present, no further details||Natural|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Arid regions||Present, no further details||Productive/non-natural|
|Littoral||Coastal areas||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Littoral||Coastal areas||Present, no further details||Natural|
|Littoral||Coastal areas||Present, no further details||Productive/non-natural|
|Littoral||Coastal dunes||Present, no further details||Natural|
|Littoral||Salt marshes||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Littoral||Salt marshes||Present, no further details||Natural|
Biology and EcologyTop of page
The chromosome number of A. semibaccata is reported to be 2n= 18 (Flora of North America Editorial Committee, 2015).
A. semibaccata reproduces by the production of seed. Plants have separate male and female flowers on the same plant, though possible pollinators or means of pollination is unknown. However, other Atriplex species are self-compatible and wind-pollinated, suggesting this also may be the case with A. semibaccata. The fruiting bracteoles split into two when ripe and dry, exposing a single seed (Cal-IPC, 2015). The degree of persistence of seeds in soil and germination conditions are unknown. A. semibaccata produces large numbers of fruits and seed and like many other species of the genus, does not appear to exhibit any characteristics of dormancy, with high germination rates with no pre-treatment recorded (Florabank, 2015). De Villiers et al. (1994) found an optimum of 21°C for germination, while IFFA (2010) indicates that germination may be aided by soaking seeds for several hours to dilute and flush chemicals that inhibit germination.
In its native range, Australia, A. semibaccata flowers and fruits in the spring and summer, with flowering occurring later in Western Australia as compared to the further east and south (Florabank, 2015). However, where introduced in the USA, A. semibaccata flowers in the northern hemisphere spring, summer and early winter (Flora of North America Editorial Committee, 2015).
Physiology and Phenology
A. semibaccata has C4 photosynthesis (Bjorkman and Gauhi, 1969). Leaf structure and plant habit have been shown to change, depending on the prevailing environmental conditions and plants show an ability to adapt their immediate environmental conditions to some extent. A study of several coastal habitats in southern California (Bullock, 1936) found that modifications of habit and leaf structure were correlated with environmental conditions, notably with influences of temperature, evaporation, soil moisture and salinity. A pot experiment by De Villers et al. (1996) found that A. semibaccata exposed to higher salt stress responded by decreases in leaf size, root diameter and lower numbers of chloroplasts in the chlorenchyma and bundle sheath cells. Furthermore, net leaf photosynthetic rate and leaf stomatal conductance also decreased, while the intercellular CO2 concentration increased, with a trend towards an increase in number of stomata per unit leaf area.
In New South Wales, Australia A. semibaccata was found to become dormant in winter whereas other Atriplex species remained green, though all species studied showed good adaptation notwithstanding the low and variable rainfall, wide range in temperature, humidity and evaporation and poor soils (Gates and Muirhead, 1967).
A. semibaccata is a prostrate, mostly evergreen, monoecious perennial shrub, though the longevity is debated. It may live for 10-20 years (Florabank, 2015), though it is also believed to live for only two to five years and in favorable situations for up to ten years (Cal-IPC, 2015). However, noting the size of some individuals and the low growth rates expected in these arid and poor soils, it may be expected that the plant can live for at least in excess of 10-15 years.
A. semibaccata is native to Australia, but is rarely found in the truly tropical and more humid northern areas. It is a very drought-tolerant species of sub-tropical arid and semi-arid areas and appears to grow well also in Mediterranean winter rainfall areas. It is most common in 250-900 mm mean annual rainfall zones. It is a low-spreading and deep-rooted sub-shrub that grows in full sun and requires little soil moisture and will survive winter temperatures well below freezing, to -5ºC and will also tolerate salt-laden sea wind (Cal-IPC, 2015). On saline soils in California, rapid, more profuse seed germination provides a competitive advantage over native species and A. semibaccata was reported to be one of the first species to colonise eroded lands on Santa Barbara Island (Cal-IPC, 2015).
The species, as with most other Atriplex species, shows a high degree of salt tolerance (9-16 dS/m) (Florabank, 2015). It appears to grow in many soil types though preferring light and more acidic soils. However, this includes heavier clay loams and even those than are occasionally waterlogged, but are more generally light to medium clay loams (35-50% clay) or loams, sandy loams, or sandy clay loams.
ClimateTop of page
|BS - Steppe climate||Preferred||> 430mm and < 860mm annual precipitation|
|BW - Desert climate||Preferred||< 430mm annual precipitation|
|Cf - Warm temperate climate, wet all year||Tolerated||Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, wet all year|
|Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer||Tolerated||Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers|
Air TemperatureTop of page
|Parameter||Lower limit||Upper limit|
|Absolute minimum temperature (ºC)||-5|
|Mean annual temperature (ºC)||10||23|
|Mean maximum temperature of hottest month (ºC)||27||36|
|Mean minimum temperature of coldest month (ºC)||0||10|
RainfallTop of page
|Parameter||Lower limit||Upper limit||Description|
|Mean annual rainfall||250||900||mm; lower/upper limits|
Rainfall RegimeTop of page
Soil TolerancesTop of page
- seasonally waterlogged
- very acid
Special soil tolerances
Natural enemiesTop of page
Notes on Natural EnemiesTop of page
There is very little information on the natural enemies of A. semibaccata. However, larvae from pygmy blue butterflies (Brephidium exilis) are reported to feed on the foliage (Cal-IPC, 2015). Meloidogyne javanica and M. incognita are recorded infecting A. semibaccata in Saudi Arabia (Eissa and Hyder, 1981).
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page
A. semibaccata is likely to be naturally dispersed over short distances as small seedlings are found under remnant plants and often scattered along roadsides. However, the degree of persistence of seeds in soil and germination conditions are unknown (Cal-IPC, 2015).
The red, berry-like fruits of A. semibaccata are attractive to fruit eaters, which may help disperse the seeds. Seeds have been found in the stomach contents of foxes and lizards on Santa Cruz Island, California, USA (Cal-IPC, 2015; Florabank, 2015).
A. semibaccata has also been identified as a possible seed contaminant (Cal-IPC, 2015) and movement of hay or other fodder from invaded areas could provide a means of introduction to new areas.
A. semibaccata has been intentionally introduced into a number of countries due to its value as a drought and salt tolerant fodder crop and as a good ground cover.
Pathway CausesTop of page
Pathway VectorsTop of page
Impact SummaryTop of page
|Environment (generally)||Positive and negative|
Economic ImpactTop of page
Considering its value as a fodder crop, the economic impact of A. semibaccata could be considered positive, in areas where it has not proved invasive. However, A. semibaccata has not proved to be the most adaptive or productive of the salt and drought tolerant species tested in any area and other species of Atriplex are often selected. Therefore the positive economic impacts are considered minimal.
Environmental ImpactTop of page
A. semibaccata can form a dense and fire-retardant groundcover that displaces native plant species (Cal-IPC, 2015).
In Hawaii, USA, invasion of A. semibaccata and other invasive species, has been identified as affecting a number of endangered species. These include the grass species Panicum niihauense, which is in danger of extinction throughout its range in Hawaii; also Scaevola coriacea, which is now only found from three naturally occurring populations and Sesbania tomentosa on the island of Molokai (USFWS 1999; USFWS, 2003; Perlman 2006; Tangalin 2006; Wood, 2008Perlman, 2009).
In California, Verbesina dissita is endangered and restricted to the Laguna Beach area of Orange County, where it is observed to directly compete for space and shade with landscaping plants such as A. semibaccata (USFWS, 2010). In the San Joaquin Valley in California, unspecified Atriplex species are identified as having an important impact on local biodiversity (Germano et al., 2012) and as A. semibaccata is noted as naturalized here, it may be assumed that it is at least one of the species present. In an experiment by Germano et al. (2012), the natural re-establishment of saltbush (Atriplex spp.) on part of the study site had a positive impact on the abundance of western whiptail lizards (Aspidoscelis tigris) and the endangered San Joaquin antelope squirrel (Ammospermophilus nelsoni).
Threatened SpeciesTop of page
|Threatened Species||Conservation Status||Where Threatened||Mechanism||References||Notes|
|Panicum niihauense (Niihau panicgrass)||CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered); NatureServe; USA ESA listing as endangered species||Hawaii||Competition - monopolizing resources; Competition - shading; Competition (unspecified); Ecosystem change / habitat alteration||Perlman (2006); Tangalin (2006); USFWS (1999); US Fish and Wildlife Service (2008)|
|Scaevola coriacea (dwarf naupaka)||NatureServe; USA ESA listing as endangered species||Hawaii||Competition - monopolizing resources; Competition - shading; Competition (unspecified)||Wood (2008); US Fish and Wildlife Service (2010a)|
|Sesbania tomentosa||National list(s); USA ESA listing as endangered species||Hawaii||Competition - monopolizing resources; Competition - shading||Perlman (2009); USFWS (2003); US Fish and Wildlife Service (2010b)|
|Verbesina dissita (big-leaved crownbeard)||National list(s); USA ESA listing as threatened species||California||Competition - monopolizing resources; Competition - shading||USFWS (2010); US Fish and Wildlife Service (2010c)|
|Hylaeus assimulans (assimulans yellow-faced bee)||USA ESA listing as endangered species||Hawaii||Ecosystem change / habitat alteration||US Fish and Wildlife Service (2014a)|
|Hylaeus facilis (easy yellow-faced bee)||USA ESA listing as endangered species||Hawaii||Ecosystem change / habitat alteration||US Fish and Wildlife Service (2014b)|
|Hylaeus hilaris (hilaris yellow-faced bee)||USA ESA species proposed for listing||Hawaii||Ecosystem change / habitat alteration||US Fish and Wildlife Service (2014c)|
|Hylaeus kuakea (Hawaiian yellow-faced bee)||USA ESA listing as endangered species||Hawaii||Ecosystem change / habitat alteration||US Fish and Wildlife Service (2014d)|
|Hylaeus longiceps||USA ESA listing as endangered species||Hawaii||Ecosystem change / habitat alteration||US Fish and Wildlife Service (2014e)|
|Hylaeus mana||USA ESA listing as endangered species||Hawaii||Ecosystem change / habitat alteration||US Fish and Wildlife Service (2014f)|
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page
- Proved invasive outside its native range
- Has a broad native range
- Abundant in its native range
- Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
- Pioneering in disturbed areas
- Long lived
- Has high reproductive potential
- Has high genetic variability
- Modification of fire regime
- Reduced native biodiversity
- Threat to/ loss of endangered species
- Threat to/ loss of native species
- Competition - monopolizing resources
- Competition - shading
- Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
- Difficult to identify/detect as a commodity contaminant
UsesTop of page
In Australia, its native range, A. semibaccata is planted in agroforestry combinations, for example in systems to improve performance and profitability of vineyards (Hoare, 2011). It is also planted as a cover crop where it has effects on beneficial and pest invertebrates (Danne et al., 2010). In addition, it has been planted with the aim of restoring mine spoils, e.g. on saline gold mine wastes (Osborne and Brearley, 1995). The Corto strain of A. semibaccata was assessed as a ground cover species for controlling erosion and for landscaping (Holzworth and Garrison, 1978). There are also records of A. semibaccata being used for human food (Anon, 1943).
In North America, where this species is introduced, A. semibaccata can provide supplementary feed in summer and winter as a component of saltland pasture, when other sources of paddock feed are less available. This species is one of the more readily grazed Atriplex saltbushes and is considered a valuable species either as a source of variety in the diet or as a major component (Florabank, 2015). However, as was noted in Cape Verde, due to the high salt content within the foliage, intake of all Atriplex species is reduced to almost zero if there is not adequate availability of drinking water for livestock (Pasiecznik et al., 1996). A. semibaccata var. corta also gave comparatively good cover and sward quality as a turfgrass alternative (Gibeault et al., 1989).
A. semibaccata is one of many halophyte species planted for land reclamation and as a fodder crop with or without saline water irrigation in the Mediterranean region (Houérou et al., 1995). A. semibaccata was found to be one of the best two performing species for restoring bare patches of ground in the Nama-Karoo of South Africa (Visser et al., 2007).
Uses ListTop of page
Animal feed, fodder, forage
- Fodder/animal feed
- Erosion control or dune stabilization
- Land reclamation
- Soil conservation
Similarities to Other Species/ConditionsTop of page
The red-fleshy fruiting bracteoles are diagnostic of A. semibaccata, which is multi-stemmed from an often buried woody caudex. Another Australian species A. muelleri is somewhat similar in appearance to A. semibaccata and has also been reported, but not verified, as present in North America (Flora of North America Editorial Committee, 2015). A. semibaccata is also noted to hybridize with A. spinibractea in New South Wales, Australia and this may have led to the variant with dry bracteoles in northern Queensland described as A. neurivalvis (CSIRO, 2007).
Prevention and ControlTop of page
Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.
Cultural Control and Sanitary Measures
As A. semibaccata is highly palatable, grazing could be used as a means of control. However, as was noted in Cape Verde, due to the high salt content within the foliage, intake of all Atriplex species is reduced to almost zero if there is not adequate availability of drinking water for livestock (Pasiecznik et al., 1996).
A. semibaccata is easy to control by hand pulling due to its relatively small size. If it is uprooted before it produces seeds plants can be effectively controlled, though follow up will be needed to remove plants arising from any residual seed pool (Cal-IPC, 2015).
Chemical control of A. semibaccata has not been reported, although chemicals that control similar species, such as Kochia scoparia [Bassia scoparia] and Salsola tragus, may prove effective (Cal-IPC, 2015). These chemicals include dicamba, dicamba + MCPA amine, 2,4-D and picloram + 2,4-D (Cal-IPC, 2015).
Gaps in Knowledge/Research NeedsTop of page
As part of further work, more research on the invasiveness of Atriplex species at the genus level, including a more thorough understanding of seed production, dispersal methods and means of control is required.
ReferencesTop of page
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23/11/2015 Original text by:
Nick Pasiecznik, Consultant, France
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