estuaries and saline
waterways in south
Department of Conservation
and Land Management
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
present one, Native vegetation of estuaries and saline waterways in south Western
to encourage protection and restoration of the streamline vegetation which is
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.
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.
Printed on recycled paper
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.
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
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.
The pale brown fruiting cones are almost
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
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.
Flowers throughout the year.
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
alternate and spreading. They are long
and narrow, 60-160 mm long and 10-33
mm wide, and have a conspicuous midrib.
The inflorescence is made up of drooping
buds are 16-33 mm long, with narrow
horn-shaped bud caps which, when shed,
reveal the white to creamy flowers.
The drooping fruits are clustered together
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
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.
Flat-topped yate can be propagated by
seed and is suitable for direct seeding.
grey-green or bluish green, alternately
arranged and up to 140 mm long and 30
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.
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
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.
Flooded gum can be grown from seed
planted in spring. It is suitable for direct
seeding. Collect the mature woody fruits
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.
with numerous prominent stamens.
The woody fruits are solitary or only a few together. They are 6-11 mm wide and have 5
Flowers from spring to early summer.
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.
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.
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.
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
The woody fruits occur in clusters along the stem. Each is almost spherical and
5-6 mm in diameter.
Flowers from spring to summer.
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.
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.
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.
The flowers are cream to pale yellow and
occur in dense spherical heads towards
the end of the stem.
The small fruits are woody, 2-3 mm
Flowers in spring and summer.
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.
This species can be propagated by seed
planted in autumn or spring or by
semi-hardwood cuttings. It is suitable for
flattened, linear to narrowly elliptic in shape, up to 23 mm long and 1-2 mm wide and
often somewhat curved.
towards the end of the stem. The flowers have numerous stamens which give the spikes a
and 3-4 mm across.
Flowers between late winter and mid spring.
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.
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.
opposite. They are flat and elliptic,
10-40 mm long and have a dense scaly
sheen on the undersurface.
The male inflorescence is an elongated
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
The tiny fruits are enclosed between
which are flat, smooth and 4-6 mm long.
Flowers mostly summer and autumn.
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.
Saltbush can be grown by seed or strikes
readily from cuttings. It is difficult to
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.
Each flower is about 10 mm in diameter and has 5 or 6 spreading petals which have
minutely and irregularly torn tips.
Flowers throughout the year.
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.
Sea heath can be grown from stem cuttings taken at any time of the year.
wide. They are not succulent, are often prominently dotted with oil glands and have
minutely serrated margins.
are white with mauve spots or entirely pink-mauve. They are 3-8 mm in diameter with
5 spreading lobes.
Flowers all year except for part of winter.
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.
Slender myoporum can be grown from seed or cuttings.
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
The spike-like inflorescence is 10-60 mm
long, each containing one or more small
flowers. Each flower has a small bract but
lacks floral segments.
The fruits are tiny 3-ribbed nuts, one
Flowers spring and summer.
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
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.
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
The inflorescence is a cluster of spikelets
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.
The fruits are flattened to almost
around 3 mm long. There may be up to
250 seeds per inflorescence.
Flowers in spring.
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.
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.
triangular in cross section and erect. The
grass-like leaves are flat and smooth and
1-4 mm wide.
The inflorescence is a cluster of one to
have a few male flowers at the base and
more numerous female flowers above.
Each small flower has a bract but lacks
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
Knob sedge can be propagated by seed or
SEDGES & RUSHES
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
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.
The fruit is a shining nut, only one per
Flowers mainly in winter and spring.
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.
Coast saw-sedge is suitable for
transplantation and propagation from seed.
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
has numerous head-like clusters of
flowers. Each cluster has 3-15 dark
red-brown flowers, each flower with
6 floral segments.
split to release tiny seeds which are
Flowers late spring to early summer.
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.
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.
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
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.
The fruit is a pale to dark brown nut
2 nuts per spikelet.
Flowers late spring and early summer.
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.
Coastal sword-sedge can be transplanted
and also grown from seed.
and 3-10 mm broad with longitudinal
grooves. The leaves are reduced to a
sheath with an oblique tip, the blade
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.
The fruit is a smooth, brown, slightly
approximately 2 mm long. There are
around 600 nuts per inflorescence.
Flowers in late spring to summer.
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
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.
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.
The flowers develop in a terminal portion,
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
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
Flowers from late spring to early autumn.
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.
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
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.
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
The fruiting area becomes grey and corky
become hard and horny. The seed is pale
brown, smooth and glossy.
Flowers from late spring to autumn.
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.
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.
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.
up to 50 mm long, of the stem segments.
The clusters of 3 flowers are prominently
exposed from the succulent bracts.
The small succulent fruitlets separate
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.
Flowers in late summer and autumn.
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.
This samphire can be propagated by
spreading mature fruiting material over
the site. The seeds mature in late autumn.
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.
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.
The fertile portion of the segmented stem
The tiny seeds are circular and covered
with rounded projections.
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
This samphire can be propagated by
scattering the fruiting segments in the
spring, at least a couple of weeks before
the last rains.
succulent. The stem segments are
5-15 mm long.
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.
enlarges to 3-5 mm in diameter in fruit.
The tiny seeds are circular and covered
with tapered projections.
Flowers from spring to late summer.
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
Beaded samphire can be propagated by
scattering the fruiting segments in spring,
at least a couple of weeks before the last
They are narrowly oblong, 8-12 mm long and 1-2 mm wide.
The flowers are white and occur singly along the stem. Each flower has 5 petal-like
Flowers in late spring.
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.
Trailing jointweed is not easily propagated.
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.
The white to pink flowers are on slender
and has 5 petals 5-7 mm long.
The fruit is a small spherical capsule
Flowers spring and early summer.
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.
This species can be propagated by
planting the creeping rootstock.
oblong in shape, 20-40 mm long and 3-12
mm wide. The stem leaves are smaller,
the uppermost only 3-8 mm long.
The flowers are white sometimes tinged
Each flower is 5-10 mm across and has
5 petals 4-7 mm long.
opening by 5 valves.
Flowers much of the year.
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
Creeping brookweed can be propagated
by transplanting the creeping rootstock.
succulent and alternately arranged along
the stems. They are 10-30 mm long and
may be either slender or rather thick.
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
and brittle floral segments. The seed is
reddish brown, smooth and glossy, and 1
mm in diameter.
Flowers from summer to early winter.
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.
Seablite can be propagated by seed.
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.
The loose inflorescence is light green or
spikelets. The spikelets are 4-7 mm long,
each containing 3-5 small flowers.
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.
This species can be propagated by seed.
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
The narrow inflorescence is dark grey
with many small single-flowered
spikelets 2-2.5 mm long.
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.
Marine couch can be propagated by seed
or from the creeping stems.
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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
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
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
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.
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