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Native vegetation of

estuaries and saline 

waterways in south

Western Australia

1997

Department of Conservation

and Land Management


1

USING THIS BOOKLET

The Water and Rivers Commission has published two companion booklets, one entitled

Native vegetation of freshwater rivers and creeks in south Western Australia

and this 

present one, Native vegetation of estuaries and saline waterways in south Western

Australia 

to encourage protection and restoration of the streamline vegetation which is

vital to 

maintaining the ecology and water quality of our creeks, rivers and estuaries. It is hoped

that these booklets will be useful to community rivercare and landcare groups and other

people interested in local flora who wish to identify common plants found along the 

various types of waterways. If you are interested in joining volunteer rivercare groups, 

you can contact the appropriate local council or the Water and Rivers Commission. 

This booklet deals with the species commonly encountered near saline waterways and 

wetlands. Because the flora of Western Australia is rich and varied some of the species

described here may be confused with plants of other habitats so ensure that your plant has

come from a saline environment. The terminology has been simplified as far as possible

and a glossary of terms is provided at the back. Inside the back cover there is a transect

showing where the various plants may be found and a page index for each plant. 

For further information about the vegetation of saline waterways and other habitats a 

reference list is provided.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

This work was prepared for the Water and Rivers Commission by Lisa Chalmers (Policy

and Planning) and Judy Wheeler (Conservation and Land Management). 

Special thanks to Margaret Wilson for her excellent illustrations which will make for easy

identification. Special thanks to Nicole Siemon (Swan River Trust) who instigated the 

project and provided much input. Thanks to Luke Pen (Water and Rivers Commission)

who provided comment and the initial transect drawings.  Gratitude is expressed to Karen

Majer and Jeff Kite (Water and Rivers Commission) for their comments. Also thanks to

Neville Marchant and staff at the Western Australian Herbarium who provided valuable

assistance. Thanks to Kathy Meney (Regeneration Technology Pty Ltd) and Pat Hatfield

(Leschenault Inlet Management Authority) for some of the propagation information.

Thanks to Paul Wilson for help collecting fresh plant specimens for drawing.

ISBN 0-7309-7245-1

Printed on recycled paper


2

VALUES OF FRINGING VEGETATION

Fringing vegetation plays an important role in the maintenance of a biologically balanced

and healthy waterway. It provides a wide range of functions that are essential for 

supporting plant and animal life and for maintaining the quality of the environment.  

These functions include: flood control; shoreline stabilisation; sediment, nutrient and 

pollutant filtering and, most importantly, the provision of food, shelter and breeding 

habitats for a wide range of organisms.

ESTUARIES OF THE SOUTH WEST

There are thirty three estuaries in the south-west corner of WAfrom Perth to Esperance.

They include varied habitats including sedgelands, saltmarshes, samphire flats, fringing

forest and sandy beaches. 

The plants which fringe the estuaries are highly adapted to a dynamic environment.  

The estuarine systems undergo daily changes due to tidal influences, and seasonal changes

due to rainfall and river flow regimes. Many of the plants which occupy the estuaries and

saline environments can tolerate seasonal waterlogging or inundation. Change in salinity is

one of the major influences on estuarine vegetation. The plants must tolerate increasingly

saline conditions over summer and autumn. Seasonal rains in winter and spring provide the

plant communities with fresh water. They also may receive water from groundwater 

seepage from the landward side. This freshwater flush is important for many salt-tolerant

species as it enables the seeds to germinate. 

Estuaries are very productive environments as they receive nutrients and sediments from

surrounding catchments. The diversity of habitats caused by variations in inundation,

waterlogging, nutrient levels and salinity result in a large number of species and a high 

biological productivity.A number of native plants are common to estuaries and other salty

waterways. In this booklet these have been grouped into trees, shrubs, sedges and rushes,

samphires, herbs and grasses.

BRACKISH AND SALINE WATERWAYS OF THE SOUTH WEST

Many of the rivers and creeks in the low rainfall inland areas and coastal areas east of

Albany are brackish to saline. These streams support a range of salt-tolerant fringing plant

species, many of which are also found on estuaries.


TREES

3

Casuarina obesa



Swamp sheoak

(Casuarinaceae)

LEAVES


There are distinctive, slender, greyish

green needles that function as leaves.  

The real leaves are teeth-like, 12-15 in a

whorl at each joint of the needles. The

whorls of leaves are between 5-15 mm

apart.


FLOWERS

The wind-pollinated flowers are very

small. There are numerous tiny orange

male flowers in catkin-like clusters at the

tips of needles. The female flower spikes

appear as globular protrusions from the

main stem, the tiny flowers only seen as

reddish fringing filaments.

FRUITS

The pale brown fruiting cones are almost



globular, 10-20 mm long and 10-30 mm

wide. The cones have thin valves which

separate the individual seeds.  

The seeds are 5-7 mm long with a straw

to grey-coloured body and an opaque to

translucent wing.

GROWTH FORM AND HABITAT

Swamp sheoak grows to 10 m high with a

spread of 4 m. It has gracefully flowing

branches. There are separate male and

female trees. Swamp sheoak occurs along

the rivers, estuaries and clay flats on the

coastal plain of WA. It is also widely 

distributed across southern Australia.  

FLOWERING TIME

Flowers throughout the year.

PROPAGATION

Swamp sheoak can be grown from seed

planted in autumn and spring. It can also

be direct seeded. Collect the cones which

are furthest back on the branch to ensure

that they are mature. If the seed is 

red-orange in colour then it is immature.

The seed can be collected from mid to

late summer.

male 

flower

male 

inflorescence

fruit on

female tree

female flower

spike


TREES

4

Eucalyptus occidentalis



Flat-topped yate

(Myrtaceae)

LEAVES


The glossy, dark green leaves are 

alternate and spreading. They are long

and narrow, 60-160 mm long and 10-33

mm wide, and have a conspicuous midrib.

FLOWERS

The inflorescence is made up of drooping



clusters of 3 to 7 flowers. The slender

buds are 16-33 mm long, with narrow

horn-shaped bud caps which, when shed,

reveal the white to creamy flowers.

FRUITS

The drooping fruits are clustered together



on a flattened common stalk. Each fruit 

is bell-shaped, smooth, 8-15 mm long 

and 6-11 mm wide. The rim around each 

fruit is narrow and there are 4 slender 

projecting valves.

FLOWERING TIME

Flowers between summer and autumn.

GROWTH FORM AND HABITAT

Flat-topped yate grows to around 20 m

tall with a spread of 5 m and has a 

distinctive branching which gives the

crown a broad and flat appearance.  

The lower bark is rough grey, somewhat

fibrous and flaky, higher up it is smooth

white or pink to yellowish grey. It is 

usually associated with wet depressions 

or clay flats. Distribution extends from

Wagin to eastward beyond Esperance. 

PROPAGATION

Flat-topped yate can be propagated by

seed and is suitable for direct seeding.

flowering

branch

operculum

fruit

fruits


TREES

5

Eucalyptus rudis



Flooded gum

(Myrtaceae)

LEAVES


The attractive mature leaves are dull,

grey-green or bluish green, alternately

arranged and up to 140 mm long and 30

mm wide.


FLOWERS

The inflorescence is an erect cluster of 4

to 10 flowers. The small buds are 8-12

mm long with conical caps which, when

shed, reveal white to cream flowers.

FRUITS


The small fruits are brown, hemispherical

to broadly bell-shaped, 4-6 mm long and

6-15 mm wide. Each fruit has a very

broad rim with 4 to 6 broad projecting

valves.

FLOWERING TIME



Flowers autumn to spring.

GROWTH FORM AND HABITAT

Flooded gum is an attractive tree which

grows up to 25 m high, with a spread of 4

m and a somewhat rounded crown.  

The trunk has persistent, rough and flaky

dark grey bark while the upper branches

have a smooth cream and pale grey bark.

Flooded gum is a common species 

fringing winter-wet depressions, lakes 

and watercourses throughout the Swan

Coastal Plain.  It is able to tolerate 

prolonged periods of flooding and is 

usually found in waterlogged areas.

Distribution extends from north of

Geraldton to the south coast.

PROPAGATION

Flooded gum can be grown from seed

planted in spring.  It is suitable for direct

seeding.  Collect the mature woody fruits

for seed.

budding

branch

fruit


TREES

6

Melaleuca cuticularis



Saltwater paperbark

(Myrtaceae)

LEAVES


The leaves are a dull greyish green and are arranged in two opposite pairs forming four

regular lines of leaves down the stem. The leaves, although thick, are somewhat flattened

and elliptic in shape. They are 5-12 mm long and 1.5-3 mm wide.

FLOWERS


The white to cream flowers are single or in small clusters near the end of the stem, each

with numerous prominent stamens.

FRUITS

The woody fruits are solitary or only a few together. They are 6-11 mm wide and have 5



protrusions around the rim making a star-like shape.

FLOWERING TIME

Flowers from spring to early summer.

GROWTH FORM AND HABITAT

Saltwater paperbark is a small gnarled tree or large shrub up to 7 m high with very white

papery bark. It grows in salty wetlands as it is tolerant of both waterlogging and salt in the

air and water. Saltwater paperbark is distributed from Perth along the west and south coast

to Israelite Bay.

PROPAGATION

Saltwater paperbark can be propagated by seeds planted in autumn and spring. Check that

the capsules are woody and plump, indicating maturity. It can be direct seeded.

single

flower

stem tip

flowering

stem

fruit

fruit


Melaleuca rhaphiophylla

Swamp paperbark

(Myrtaceae)

LEAVES


The green to greyish green and spreading leaves are arranged alternately along the stem.

They are needle-like and circular in cross section. The narrow leaves are 10-40 mm long

and only 0.5-1 mm wide with a pointed tip.

FLOWERS


The flowers occur in dense, cream elongated clusters (spikes), usually towards the end of

the stem. The flowers have prominent stamens which give the spike a bottlebrush-like

appearance. Often new leaves are already forming at the end of the stem when the flowers

open. 


FRUITS

The woody fruits occur in clusters along the stem. Each is almost spherical and 

5-6 mm in diameter.

FLOWERING TIME

Flowers from spring to summer.

GROWTH FORM AND HABITAT

Swamp paperbark is a small to medium tree to 10 m high with greyish white papery bark.

It grows near watercourses and wetlands at the drier end of the littoral zone.  

Swamp paperbark is able to tolerate periodic inundation for several months of the year,

but prefers waterlogged sites. It can be found near both fresh and saline water, but is less

adapted to saline conditions than saltwater paperbark. Distributed along the coast from

Kalbarri to Fitzgerald River National Park and also inland to York.

PROPAGATION

Swamp paperbark can be grown from cuttings or by seed planted in autumn and spring. It

can be direct seeded. It has been suggested that the seed can be thrown onto the water and

that this will place the seeds at the right height along the banks for successful germination.

TREES

7

single



flower

flowering

stem

leaf cross section

fruit

Melaleuca thymoides

a Myrtle

(Myrtaceae)

LEAVES 


The leaves are alternately arranged along

the stem. They are flat and elliptic in

shape tapering to a point and have three

prominent longitudinal veins.  

The leaves are up to 12 mm long and 

1.5-2.5 mm wide.

FLOWERS 

The flowers are cream to pale yellow and

occur in dense spherical heads towards

the end of the stem.  

FRUITS

The small fruits are woody, 2-3 mm



across and grouped in spherical clusters.

FLOWERING TIME

Flowers in spring and summer.

GROWTH FORM AND HABITAT

This species is a shrub to tree which

grows up to 2 m high and has short spiny

branchlets. It prefers light well-drained

soils and occurs in sands in winter-wet

depressions. Distributed from Perth to the

south coast and eastwards to Israelite Bay.

PROPAGATION

This species can be propagated by seed

planted in autumn or spring or by 

semi-hardwood cuttings. It is suitable for

direct seeding.

TREES


8

fruit

fruit cluster

flowering

stem

leaf

Melaleuca viminea

Mohan

(Myrtaceae)

LEAVES


The dark green leaves are arranged alternately along the stem. They are thick but 

flattened, linear to narrowly elliptic in shape, up to 23 mm long and 1-2 mm wide and

often somewhat curved.

FLOWERS


The white to pale yellow flowers are perfumed and arranged in elongated clusters (spikes)

towards the end of the stem. The flowers have numerous stamens which give the spikes a

bottlebrush-like appearance.

FRUITS


The grey woody fruits are clustered near the end of the stem. They are small, cup-shaped

and 3-4 mm across.

FLOWERING TIME

Flowers between late winter and mid spring.

GROWTH FORM AND HABITAT

Mohan is an attractive neat rounded shrub or tree up to 8 m tall and with a spread of 3 m.

It branches evenly and has an unbroken canopy. Mohan has dark, rough and fibrous bark

and is found fringing rivers and estuaries or in winter-wet swamps. It is distributed

between Kalbarri and the south coast extending east to Mt Ragged, and may be found in

several places beside the Swan and Canning estuaries. 

PROPAGATION

Mohan can be propagated by seed planted in autumn or spring or by semi-hardwood 

cuttings. It is suitable for direct seeding and also for the water dispersal of seeds. 

TREES


9

flower

leaf

stem

fruit

Atriplex hypoleuca

a Saltbush

(Chenopodiaceae)

LEAVES


The leaves are mostly more or less 

opposite. They are flat and elliptic, 

10-40 mm long and have a dense scaly

sheen on the undersurface.  

FLOWERS

The male inflorescence is an elongated



spike of clusters of flowers and occurs

towards the tip of the stem. It is up to 

50 mm long. The female inflorescence,

which occurs on the same plant as the

male inflorescence, has flowers in small

clusters.

FRUITS

The tiny fruits are enclosed between 



2 more or less triangular-shaped bracts

which are flat, smooth and 4-6 mm long.

FLOWERING TIME

Flowers mostly summer and autumn.

GROWTH FORM AND HABITAT

This shrub sprawls along the ground and

is found in wet saline soils on coastal and

estuarine fringes. It is distributed from

Perth to Albany.

PROPAGATION

Saltbush can be grown by seed or strikes

readily from cuttings. It is difficult to

direct seed.

SHRUBS


10

male

inflorescence

leaf

fruit

inflorescence

Frankenia pauciflora

Sea heath

(Frankeniaceae)

LEAVES


The greyish leaves are narrow, opposite and up to 13 mm long. The upper surface of the

leaf is smooth and often salt-encrusted. The leaf margins are rolled backwards over the

lower surface concealing the minute hairs each side of the smooth midrib. 

FLOWERS


The pink or white flowers occur in the upper leaf axils towards the end of the stems. 

Each flower is about 10 mm in diameter and has 5 or 6 spreading petals which have

minutely and irregularly torn tips.

FRUITS


The fruit is a cylindrical ribbed capsule.

FLOWERING TIME

Flowers throughout the year.

GROWTH FORM AND HABITAT

Sea heath is a small shrub which grows to a height of 0.5 m. It grows in saline habitats,

particularly coastal sands or saline flats and is found from Dampier along the coast to

South Australia. It also occurs in Victoria and Northern Territory.

PROPAGATION

Sea heath can be grown from stem cuttings taken at any time of the year.

SHRUBS


11

flower

flower

leaf

Myoporum caprarioides

Slender myoporum

(Myoporaceae)

LEAVES


The leaves of slender myoporum are narrow and thin, 17-70 mm long and 3.5-13 mm

wide. They are not succulent, are often prominently dotted with oil glands and have

minutely serrated margins.

FLOWERS


One or two flowers occur at the junction of the upper leaves and stem. The delicate flowers

are white with mauve spots or entirely pink-mauve. They are 3-8 mm in diameter with 

5 spreading lobes.

FRUITS


The fruits are brown, almost spherical in shape and 2-3 mm long.

FLOWERING TIME

Flowers all year except for part of winter.

GROWTH FORM AND HABITAT

Slender myoporum is a shrub up to 2 m high. It occurs along the coast mainly in 

limestone areas dominated by tuart but often in winter-wet depressions and along water

courses. It extends along the coast from Dongara to Busselton. 

PROPAGATION

Slender myoporum can be grown from seed or cuttings.

SHRUBS


12

flower

flowering

stem

fruit

Baumea juncea

Bare twigrush

(Cyperaceae)

LEAVES


Bare twigrush has smooth, cylindrical,

blue-green stems which are 1-3 mm in

d i a m e t e r. The leaves are very small and are

reduced to a sheath enclosing the stem with

only a flat or folded blade 2-10 mm long. 

SEDGES & RUSHES

FLOWERS

The spike-like inflorescence is 10-60 mm



long with small brown spikelets 3-5 mm

long, each containing one or more small

flowers. Each flower has a small bract but

lacks floral segments.

FRUITS

The fruits are tiny 3-ribbed nuts, one



maturing in each spikelet.

FLOWERING TIME

Flowers spring and summer.

GROWTH FORM AND HABITAT

A widespread sedge 0.5-1.2 m tall with

creeping underground stems, often 

forming extensive colonies along 

watercourses, estuaries and swamps

throughout the south-west of the State.  

Bare twigrush may be found in seasonally

waterlogged to partially inundated areas

which have fresh to brackish or seasonally

saline water. It prefers a fairly constant

water level but will tolerate seasonal 

fluctuations up to half a metre. Bare

twigrush is distributed along the coast

from Dongara to the Recherche

Archipelago, but also occurs in South

Australia, Queensland, New South Wales,

Tasmania, New Zealand and New

Caledonia.

PROPAGATION

Bare twigrush can be propagated from

seed using in-vitro culture of seed

embryos. It is readily established through

rhizome transplantation. Sections of 

rhizome approximately 100 mm long with

a good root mass and healthy leaves can

be planted half a metre apart. Plant 

rhizomes in winter and spring at a depth

of 100-250 mm in sandy sediments.  

Do not trim leaves. 

13

flower

inflorescence

nut


Bolboschoenus caldwellii

Marsh club-rush

(Cyperaceae)

LEAVES 


Marsh club-rush has stems which arise

singly from the rhizome and are bright

green. They are triangular in cross 

section, with grass-like alternate leaves

along the stem. The leaves are up to 850

mm long and 3-12 mm wide, with 

a prominent midrib and distinct 

longitudinal veins.

FLOWERS

The inflorescence is a cluster of spikelets



at the tip of the stem along with several

leaf-like bracts. The golden brown

spikelets are 12-20 mm long, each 

containing several small flowers. Each

flower has a bract and the floral segments

are reduced to 3-6 tiny bristles.

FRUITS

The fruits are flattened to almost 



triangular in shape, brown when ripe, and

around 3 mm long. There may be up to

250 seeds per inflorescence.

FLOWERING TIME

Flowers in spring.

GROWTH FORM AND HABITAT

Marsh club-rush is a grass-like tufted 

plant which forms large colonies and

reaches a height of 1.2 m. It grows in 

seasonally damp to seasonally inundated

sites. Marsh club-rush can tolerate a wide

range of seasonal water fluctuations as it

dies back to underground parts in summer 

and autumn and resprouts after winter 

flooding. It is distributed from north of

Perth to the south coast and extends east 

to Fitzgerald River National Park.

SEDGES & RUSHES

PROPAGATION

The seed germinates readily if germinated

immediately after collection. In-vitro culture

can also produce seedlings, however direct

seeding is more successful. Rhizome 

transplantation is not recommended as it is

difficult and the results are variable.

14

nut



flower

inflorescence

spikelet

Carex inversa

Knob sedge

(Cyperaceae)

LEAVES 


The slender, somewhat flattened stems are

triangular in cross section and erect. The

grass-like leaves are flat and smooth and

1-4 mm wide.

FLOWERS

The inflorescence is a cluster of one to



several brownish spikelets. The spikelets

have a few male flowers at the base and

more numerous female flowers above.

Each small flower has a bract but lacks

floral segments.

FRUITS


The fruit is a small nut about 2 mm long.

FLOWERING TIME

Flowers in spring.

GROWTH FORM AND HABITAT

Knob sedge reaches a height of 1.5 m and

dies back in winter. It grows along water

courses and lake margins in peat and sand

throughout southern Australia.  It is found

in seasonally wet or waterlogged soils and

in fresh to semi-saline conditions.

Knob sedge occurs from Perth south to

Fitzgerald River National Park and inland

to Northam. 

PROPAGATION

Knob sedge can be propagated by seed or

rhizome division.

SEDGES & RUSHES

15

nut



spikelet

stamen

Gahnia trifida

Coast saw-sedge

(Cyperaceae)

LEAVES


The stems are circular in cross-section and

2-4 mm wide. The leaves, which are 

150-1200 mm long, appear circular in

cross-section having tightly inrolled 

margins and taper to a point. They are 

covered with minute, upward-pointing

rigid hairs.

FLOWERS


The inflorescence has a number of 

branchlets, each branchlet with numerous

tight clusters of spikelets. The brown

spikelets are 4-5 mm long, each usually

with only a single flower. Each flower has

a bract but lacks floral segments.

FRUITS

The fruit is a shining nut, only one per



female spikelet.

FLOWERING TIME

Flowers mainly in winter and spring.

GROWTH FORM AND HABITAT

Coast saw-sedge is an attractive tall sedge

to 1.5 m high, forming a dense tussock

often 1 m in diameter. It is found in 

seasonally wet, well drained but often

saline sandy soils and in sand along 

estuaries, watercourses and in winter-wet

depressions in coastal to near-coastal

areas. It is distributed from Kalbarri to

Cape Arid National Park.

PROPAGATION

Coast saw-sedge is suitable for 

transplantation and propagation from seed.

SEDGES & RUSHES

16

flower



inflorescence

nut

fruit

stem

cross section

Juncus kraussii

Sea rush

(Juncaceae)

LEAVES


The stems are circular in cross section

and 2-4 mm broad, and have a continuous

pith. The leaves are few and basal, and

are similar to the stems but with a short

sharp apex.

FLOWERS


The inflorescence is 35-125 mm long and

has numerous head-like clusters of

flowers. Each cluster has 3-15 dark 

red-brown flowers, each flower with 

6 floral segments. 

FRUITS


The fruits are dark brown capsules which

split to release tiny seeds which are 

usually winged.

FLOWERING TIME

Flowers late spring to early summer.

GROWTH FORM AND HABITAT

Sea rush is a tussock-forming plant 

0.8-1.5 m high with dark green stems.  

It forms attractive compact clumps 

usually covering extensive areas. The

stems arise singly along the rhizome.

One of the most widespread wetland

sedges, growing in saline and brackish

habitats fringing watercourses and lakes,

also on sea shores. It occurs from north 

of Geraldton to Cape Arid, but has also

been recorded from the Pilbara.  Found in

all Australian States, also New Zealand

and South Africa.

PROPAGATION

Sea rush can be propagated by using 

rhizome transplantation or direct seeding.

Transplantation of healthy clumps has

been quite successful when the leaves

have been cut about 10 cm above the base

to reduce moisture loss. wwThe best time

to transplant is during its dormant period

around May to June before the maximum

growth period from July to October.

SEDGES & RUSHES

17

inflorescence

capsule

seeds


Lepidosperma gladiatum

Coastal sword-sedge

(Cyperaceae)

LEAVES


The stems are 13-22 mm wide, are 

convex in the centre but have flattened

margins. The dark green leaves are 

similar to the stems but somewhat flatter.

They are up to 1.5 metres long and 25

mm wide.


FLOWERS

The inflorescence is a branched spike 

40-180 mm long with many spikelets.

The spikelets are 7-9 mm long, each with

1 or 2 small flowers.  Each flower has a

bract and 6 small floral segments.

FRUITS

The fruit is a pale to dark brown nut



about 3 mm long. There are only 1 or 

2 nuts per spikelet.

FLOWERING TIME

Flowers late spring and early summer.

GROWTH FORM AND HABITAT

Coastal sword-sedge forms broad clumps

and reaches up to 1.5 m in height.  

It is perennial and is found in seasonally

moist or wet sands as well as dry dunes.

Widespread on coastal dunes and sandy

lake margins from Leeman to Cape Arid.

PROPAGATION

Coastal sword-sedge can be transplanted

and also grown from seed.

SEDGES & RUSHES

18

inflorescence



spikelets

nut

leaf tip

stem 

cross section

Schoenoplectus validus

Lake club-rush

(Cyperaceae)

LEAVES


The stems are circular in cross section

and 3-10 mm broad with longitudinal

grooves. The leaves are reduced to a

sheath with an oblique tip, the blade

being absent.  

FLOWERS


The inflorescence is a cluster of numerous

spikelets. The brown spikelets are 

5-14 mm long and 4-5 mm wide.  

Each spikelet has many small flowers and

each flower has a bract and 5 or 6 

bristle-like floral segments.

FRUITS

The fruit is a smooth, brown, slightly



compressed nut. The nuts are 

approximately 2 mm long. There are

around 600 nuts per inflorescence.

FLOWERING TIME

Flowers in late spring to summer.

GROWTH FORM AND HABITAT

Lake club-rush is an erect sedge reaching

up to 3 m high. It forms clumps and

sometimes extensive colonies.  

Lake club-rush grows in fresh, brackish

or  semi-saline water. It is widespread in

the south-west in winter-wet depressions

and around the margins of lakes and

rivers.  Occurs on the coastal plain from

Yanchep to the Blackwood River. It also

occurs in all other Australian States

except the Northern Territory, also in

other countries bordering the Pacific

Ocean.

PROPAGATION



Seed germination does occur in this

species, however few seeds germinate.

In-vitro culture may be used to produce

seedlings. Planting rhizomes, with a 

minimum length of 4 to 5 aerial stems,

should be done in winter and the leaves

should be cut to prevent desiccation.

SEDGES & RUSHES

19

nut

spikelet

stem and 

leaves

inflorescence


Halosarcia halocnemoides

Shrubby samphire

(Chenopodiaceae)

LEAVES


The leaves, which are apparently absent,

are much reduced and fused together

forming part of the rim of each of the

stem segments. The intricate segmented

stems are green to red and are spherical,

2-5 mm long and glossy.

FLOWERS

The flowers develop in a terminal portion,



up to 25 mm long, of the stem segments.

The tiny flowers are in clusters of 3 and

may be found hidden within the terminal

succulent stem segments. Often only the

single stamen or slender 2-lobed style of

each flower is visible beyond the 

succulent bracts.

FRUITS


The small succulent fruitlets separate

from the plant and the disc-like seeds 

protrude from the torn edge of the fruitlet.

The seeds are flat and circular, about 

1 mm in diameter and reddish brown with

small rises in concentric rows on the 

surface.

FLOWERING TIME

Flowers from late spring to early autumn.

GROWTH FORM AND HABITAT

Shrubby samphire is a spreading, 

much-branched shrub up to 0.3 m high.  

It occurs on damp saline flats near the

coast and along rivers. Widespread in

Western Australia. It also occurs in 

South Australia, Victoria, Queensland 

and the Northern Territory.

PROPAGATION

Shrubby samphire can be grown from 

dispersed seed or dry flowering segments.

Mature fruiting segments are green in

colour and can be harvested in late 

summer. These can be dried and spread

on ‘ploughed’soil before the first 

autumn rains.

SAMPHIRES

20

inflorescence

fruitlet

and seed

stem

showing

segments


Halosarcia indica

a Samphire

(Chenopodiaceae)

LEAVES


The leaves, which are apparently absent,

are much reduced but may be seen as a

slight lobing of the stem segments. The

segmented stems are blue-green in colour,

thick and very succulent. The segments

are more or less cylindrical but slightly

wider at the top and 5-10 mm long.

FLOWERS


The flowers develop in a terminal portion,

up to 20 mm long, of the stem segments.

The flowers are in clusters of 3 concealed

by succulent bracts with only the stamen

and 2-lobed style of each flower 

protruding.

FRUITS

The fruiting area becomes grey and corky



with age. The inconspicuous fruits

become hard and horny. The seed is pale

brown, smooth and glossy.

FLOWERING TIME

Flowers from late spring to autumn.

GROWTH FORM AND HABITAT

This samphire is a dense shrub up to 

2 m high. It is widespread in Western

Australia and common on saline flats

around coastal and inland estuaries and

lakes. It also occurs in all mainland

Australian States and on tropical coasts

bordering the Indian Ocean.

PROPAGATION

This species can be propagated from the

green fruiting segments. The fruiting

material can be collected in late summer,

dried and dispersed before the first rains.

SAMPHIRES

21

seed



inflorescence

Halosarcia lepidosperma

a Samphire

(Chenopodiaceae)

LEAVES


The leaves are not apparent.  

The segmented stems are yellowish green

to dull green or slightly blue-green in

colour. The segments are more or less

cylindrical and 5-10 mm long.

FLOWERS


The flowers develop in a terminal portion,

up to 50 mm long, of the stem segments.

The  clusters of 3 flowers are prominently

exposed from the succulent bracts.

FRUITS

The small succulent fruitlets separate



from the plant and the almost spherical

seeds protrude from the torn edge of the

fruitlet.  The seed is white or pale brown

when dry and around 1.5 mm in size.  

FLOWERING TIME

Flowers in late summer and autumn.

GROWTH FORM AND HABITAT

This shrub is up to 1 m high with erect

slender branches. It is found on saline

flats bordering swamps and rivers from

Coorow to Israelite Bay. It also occurs 

in South Australia. 

PROPAGATION

This samphire can be propagated by

spreading mature fruiting material over

the site. The seeds mature in late autumn.

SAMPHIRES

22

flowers



fruitlet

and seed

seed

Sarcocornia blackiana

a Samphire

(Chenopodiaceae)

LEAVES


The leaves, which are apparently absent,

are actually fused together forming part 

of the 2-lobed rim of each of the stem

segments. The segmented stems are 

succulent. The stem segments are up to 

10 mm long.

FLOWERS

The flowers develop in a terminal portion,



up to 50 mm long, of the stem segments.

There are 5-13 tiny flowers in each 

cluster, often with the central flowers of

the cluster in two rows. Each flower has 

2 stamens and a 2-lobed style which 

protrude from the succulent bracts.  

FRUITS

The fertile portion of the segmented stem



enlarges to 5-6 mm in diameter in fruit.

The tiny seeds are circular and covered

with rounded projections.

FLOWERING TIME

Flowers spring and summer.

GROWTH FORM AND HABITAT

This samphire is an erect or spreading

shrub up to 0.8 m high, frequently rooting

at the nodes. It is found on littoral 

limestone cliffs and saline marshes along

the coast. It is distributed from Carnarvon

to Caiguna and inland to Cunderdin. 

It also occurs in South Australia, Victoria

and Tasmania.

PROPAGATION

This samphire can be propagated by 

scattering the fruiting segments in the

spring, at least a couple of weeks before

the last rains.

SAMPHIRES

23

seed and 

fruitlet

flower

flower

cluster


Sarcocornia quinqueflora

Beaded samphire

(Chenopodiaceae)

LEAVES


The leaves, which are apparently absent,

are actually fused together forming part 

of the 2-lobed rim of each of the stem

segments. The segmented stems are 

succulent. The stem segments are 

5-15 mm long.

FLOWERS

The flowers develop in a terminal portion,



10-50 mm long, of the stem segments.

There are 5-9 tiny flowers in each cluster,

in a single row. Each flower has 2 

stamens and a 2-lobed style which 

protrude from the succulent bracts.  

FRUITS


The fertile portion of the segmented stem

enlarges to 3-5 mm in diameter in fruit.

The tiny seeds are circular and covered

with tapered projections.

FLOWERING TIME

Flowers from spring to late summer.

GROWTH FORM AND HABITAT

Beaded samphire is an erect or spreading

shrub up to 0.5 m high, often rooting at

the nodes. It is found on saline flats 

associated with lakes, estuaries and rivers

close to the coast. Sometimes it is found

in very shallow water. It is distributed

from Carnarvon to Bremer Bay and

inland to Merredin. It also occurs in all

Australian States except the Northern

Territory, and in New Zealand and New

Caledonia.

PROPAGATION

Beaded samphire can be propagated by

scattering the fruiting segments in spring,

at least a couple of weeks before the last

rains.

SAMPHIRES



24

flowering

terminal stem

flower

Hemichroa pentandra

Trailing jointweed

(Amaranthaceae)

LEAVES


The leaves are alternately arranged along the stems and are thick and succulent.  

They are narrowly oblong, 8-12 mm long and 1-2 mm wide. 

FLOWERS

The flowers are white and occur singly along the stem. Each flower has 5 petal-like 



segments 4 mm long.

FRUITS


The small fruits each contain a black shiny seed.

FLOWERING TIME

Flowers in late spring.

GROWTH FORM AND HABITAT

Trailing jointweed is a sprawling to prostrate succulent perennial herb. It occurs in saline

coastal or salt lake habitats and is found at Rottnest. It also occurs in South Australia, New

South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania.

PROPAGATION

Trailing jointweed is not easily propagated.

HERBS


25

flower

bud

stem

Samolus junceus

a Brookweed

(Primulaceae)

LEAVES


The sparse blue-green leaves are 

alternate. The basal leaves are oblong, 

20-40 mm long and 3-12 mm wide. 

Up the stems, they become smaller in 

size with the uppermost being only 

1-5 mm long.

FLOWERS

The white to pink flowers are on slender



stalks. Each flower is 5-10 mm across 

and has 5 petals 5-7 mm long.

FRUITS

The fruit is a small spherical capsule



opening by 5 valves.

FLOWERING TIME

Flowers spring and early summer.

GROWTH FORM AND HABITAT

A perennial herb with erect stems up to

0.5 m high, arising from tufts or a 

creeping rootstock. It occurs in wet 

situations fringing estuaries, watercourses

and lakes, from Gingin to Cape Arid.

PROPAGATION 

This species can be propagated by 

planting the creeping rootstock.

HERBS

26

flower



flower

leaves

fruit

Samolus repens

Creeping brookweed

(Primulaceae)

LEAVES


The stems are leafy. The basal leaves are

oblong in shape, 20-40 mm long and 3-12

mm wide. The stem leaves are smaller,

the uppermost only 3-8 mm long.

FLOWERS

The flowers are white sometimes tinged



pink and are on slender stalks.  

Each flower is 5-10 mm across and has 

5 petals 4-7 mm long.

FRUITS


The fruit is a small spherical capsule

opening by 5 valves.

FLOWERING TIME

Flowers much of the year.

GROWTH FORM AND HABITAT

Creeping brookweed is a perennial herb

with erect stems up to 0.5 m high and a

creeping rootstock. It occurs near fresh,

saline or brackish water from Carnarvon

to Perth. Also occurs in South Australia

and Victoria.

PROPAGATION

Creeping brookweed can be propagated

by transplanting the creeping rootstock.

HERBS

27

capsule



leaf

flower

Suaeda australis

Seablite

(Chenopodiaceae)

LEAVES


The leaves are red or somewhat purple,

succulent and alternately arranged along

the stems. They are 10-30 mm long and

may be either slender or rather thick.  

FLOWERS 

The small flowers are arranged in clusters

along a terminal spike. There are 3-5

flowers in each cluster. The flowers are

green and approximately 1.5 mm in 

diameter with 5 somewhat succulent 

segments.

FRUITS


The fruit is surrounded by the enlarged

and brittle floral segments. The seed is

reddish brown, smooth and glossy, and 1

mm in diameter.

FLOWERING TIME

Flowers from summer to early winter.

GROWTH FORM AND HABITAT

Seablite is a shrub up to 1 m high. It

occurs on saline soil around estuaries and

winter-wet depressions, extending from

the Abrolhos Islands to Israelite Bay.

Also occurs in all Australian States except

the Northern Territory.

PROPAGATION

Seablite can be propagated by seed.

HERBS


28

fruit

flower

leaf

Poa porphyroclados

(Poaceae)

LEAVES 


The leaf blades are rigid and inrolled so

that they are almost circular in cross 

section. The blades are 130-140 mm long

and 0.3-0.4 mm wide. There is a tiny,

fringed rim at the junction of the leaf

sheath and blade.

FLOWERS

The loose inflorescence is light green or



purplish with numerous compressed

spikelets. The spikelets are 4-7 mm long,

each containing 3-5 small flowers.

FLOWERING TIME

Flowers in spring.

GROWTH FORM AND HABITAT

A tufted perennial grass which is 0.4-0.9

m tall. The grass readily invades and

often predominates regularly burnt vege -

tation.  It is found on floodways, winter-

wet flats, swamps, and estuaries in brack-

ish to saline conditions. It occurs from

Perth to Cape le Grand.

PROPAGATION

This species can be propagated by seed.

GRASSES


29

blade

inflorescence

spikelet

Sporobolus virginicus

Marine couch

(Poaceae)

LEAVES


The leaves appear opposite due to 

alternately long and short nodes.  

The blades are up to 50 mm long, narrow

and rigid with inrolled margins so that

they are almost circular in cross section.

There is a small, membranous fringed rim

at the junction of the leaf sheath and

blade.


FLOWERS 

The narrow inflorescence is dark grey

with many small single-flowered 

spikelets 2-2.5 mm long.

FLOWERING TIME

Flowers throughout the year.

GROWTH FORM AND HABITAT

Marine couch is a perennial grass 0.1-0.4

m tall with numerous thick creeping scaly

stems. Occurs in salt marshes and close to

the coast from Pilbara to Bunbury, and

also in the Kimberley area. It also occurs

in all Australian States.

PROPAGATION

Marine couch can be propagated by seed

or from the creeping stems.

GRASSES

30

male 



flower

female 

flowers

inflorescence

REFERENCES

Bennett, E.M. 1988. The bushland plants of Kings Park, Western Australia.

Scott Four Colour Print, Perth.

Bennett, E.M. 1991. Common and Aboriginal names of Western Australian plant species.

Wildflower Society of Western Australia, Eastern Hills Branch, Glen Forrest, Perth.

Bodkin, F. 1986. The essential reference guide to native and exotic plants in Australia.

Encyclopaedia Botanica. Cornstalk Publishing.

Chambers, J.M., Fletcher, N.L., and McCombe, A.J. 1995.  A guide to emergent wetland



plants of south-western Australia.

Marine and Freshwater Research Laboratory.

Environmental Science. Murdoch University, Perth.

Cronin, L. 1987. Key guide to Australian wildflowers, 600 species simply identified.

Reed Books.

Erickson, R., George, A.S., Marchant, N.G. and Morcombe, M.K. 1988. Flowers and



plants of Western Australia.

Reed Books.

Halse, S., Pearson, G. and Patrick, S. 1993. Vegetation of depth-gauged wetlands in nature

reserves of south-west Western Australia.

Technical Report No 30. Department of

Conservation and Land Management, Perth.

Holliday, I. and Watton, G. 1990.  A field guide to Banksias. Hamlyn Australia.

Marchant, N.G., Wheeler, J.R., Rye, B.L., Bennett, E.M., Lander, N.S. and Macfarlane,

T.D. 1987. Flora of the Perth Region.  Parts one and two. Department of Agriculture,

Western Australia.

Marshall, J. Undated. Field guide, wildflowers of the West Coast Hills Region.

Quality Publishing Australia.

Paterson, J.P.  1992. Description and key to the identification of grasses in south-western



Australia.

Bulletin 4210. Department of Agriculture.

Powell, R. 1990. Leaf and branch-trees and tall shrubs of Perth.

Department of Conservation and Land Management, Perth.

Rippey, E. and Rowland, B.  1995. Plants of the Perth coast and islands. 

University of Western Australia Press.

Sainty, G.R. and Jacobs, S.W. 1994. Waterplants in Australia, a field guide.

Sainty and Associates.

Thurlow, B. and Pen, L. 1994. Fringing vegetation of Leschenault Estuary - Communities,

changes and rehabilitation techniques.

Waterways Information No 6. Waterways

Commission. February 1994.

Venning, H., Oxnam, G., Cole, H. and Blackwell, M. 1993. Hints on growing native plants.

Wildflower Society of Western Australia. 

31


GLOSSARY

Blade.......................The actual “leaf” which arises above the leaf stalk or leaf sheath.

Biennial...................Completing the life span and then dying in more than one but not 

more than two years.

Brackish water........Water with a range of over 3 and up to 10 parts per thousand (ppt)

Total Dissolved Salts (TDS) all year, except for seasonal rains when

salinity can fall below 3 ppt TDS.

Bract.......................Asmall leaf-like structure in the inflorescence.

Catkin.....................Aspike-like arrangement of unisexual flowers

Capsule...................Adry fruit splitting open to release seeds at maturity.

Direct seeding.........Seeds sown in large quantities at the chosen site so that they 

germinate and grow without cultivation.

Freshwater...............Water with less than 3 parts per thousand (ppt) Total Dissolved Salts

(TDS) all year.

Inflorescence...........The flowering part of the plant.

In-vitro....................In an artificial environment.

Littoral zone............The intertidal area of land between the high and low water marks.

Node........................Apoint where leaves are attached.

Nut..........................The dry and hard fruit which does not split open to release seed at 

maturity.

Perennial.................With a life span extending over more than two growing seasons.

Petal........................One of the segments of the usually coloured floral whorl.

Rhizome.................An underground stem running parallel to the soil surface and 

bearing leaves and roots.

Saline water............Water with a range of over 10 and up to 50 parts per thousand (ppt)

Total Dissolved Salts (TDS) all year, except for after seasonal rains

when salinity can fall below 10 ppt TDS.

Salinity....................The measure of the total soluble (or dissolved) salt, i.e. mineral 

constituents in water.

Seed........................The reproductive body formed from a fertilised cell with a surrounding

seed coat.

Sheath.....................Astructure which clasps the stem.

Spike.......................An unbranched inflorescence of unstalked flowers or spikelets.

Spikelets..................The grass flower heads composed of two bracts and one to 

several 

flowers.  Also spike-like inflorescence of sedges.

Stamen....................One of the male organs of the flower, consisting typically of a 

stalk (filament) and a pollen-bearing portion (anther).

Style........................The elongated tip of the female organ of the flower.

Valve.......................The specialised opening of a fruit or nut.

NOTE: Water salinity in this booklet is defined according to Halse et al (1993) who classify salinity

according to biological parameters. The amount of total dissolved salts in water classified fresh for

drinking and other health standrads will be much less than 3 ppt TDS.

32


Casuarina

obesa

Melaleuca

rhaphiophylla

Eucalyptus

occidentalis

Eucalyptus

rudis

Atriplex

hypoleuca

Gahnia

trifida

Melaleuca

viminea

Halosarcia

lepidosperma

Melaleuca

cuticularis

Halosarcia

halocnemoides

Frankenia

pauciflora

Sporobolus

virginicus

Juncus

kraussii

Baumea

juncea

Typical fringing vegetation of saline and brackish rivers and estuaries of the 

lower south-west of Western Australia

®

Uplands                                       Swampy floodways                                   Levee                                   Channel                            Levee                            Uplands




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