|Atriplex cinerea at Williamstown, Victoria|
|From Mueller 1889|
Atriplex cinerea, commonly known as grey saltbush, coast saltbush, barilla or truganini, is a plant species in the family Amaranthaceae. It occurs in sheltered coastal areas and around salt lakes in the Australian states of Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales.
Atriplex cinerea thrives in coastal environments. It is considered native to Victoria but naturalised in some parts of the state. It is highly tolerant of salt (being a halophyte) and when compared to other coastal species, eg. Banksia integrifolia, Leptospermum laevigatum, Melaleuca lanceolata, this plant is often located closest to the sea, in the harshest of conditions. It is able to colonising sand dunes despite the prevailing winds and sea spray. The soils on which it grows are nutrient poor and can be highly alkaline (where sand is composed of calcium carbonate). Survival in this environment is possible due to numerous adaptations, including epidermal bladder cells that can sequester the salt from vascular tissue/their interior, and C4 photosynthesis, present in many species of the genus Atriplex..
Commercial, nutritional, cultural and horticultural significance
Atriplex cinerea is often used by humans/local councils to help stabilise soils, prevent erosion and revegetate/rehabilitate at risk areas. The genus Atriplex is particularly useful in dryland salinity management where they can change the water table and surface soil characteristics allowing for other plants to then colonise.
Joseph Maiden's 1889 book The Useful Native Plants of Australia records that it was "once used as pot-herb in New South Wales. During his overland journey to Port Essington, Leichhardt used a species of Atriplex as a vegetable, and spoke very highly of it."
It has been proposed that genus Atriplex was a main food source in the diet of the extinct giant kangaroo Procoptodon goliah. Stable isotopic data suggested that their diet consisted of plants that used the C4 photosynthetic pathway, and due to their semi-arid distribution, chenopod saltbushes were likely responsible.
Studies conducted on other Atriplex species demonstrated their potential use in agriculture. A study on Atriplex nummularia discovered the species have a nitrogen content of 2.5-3.5%, and could potentially be used as a protein supplement for grazing if palatable. A subsequent study allowed sheep and goats to voluntarily feed on Atriplex halimus and aimed to determine if the saltbush was palatable, and if so, did it provide enough nutrients to supplement the diet of these animals. In this study they determined when goats and sheep are given as much A. halimus as they like, they do obtain enough nutrients to supplement their diet – unless the animal requirements are higher during pregnancy and milk production. It is presumed A. cinerea, would have similar biochemical properties to A. hamilus and A. nummularia, hence also having the potential to be used in agriculture, although is still unproven.
Atriplex cinerea can be distinguished from other species of the genus Atriplex as it has all of the following features:
- the species is a perennial shrub and can be dioecious (unlike A. semibraccata, A. acutibractea, A. angulate, A. eardleyae, A. leptocarpa, A. limbata, A. papillate, A. pseudocampanulata, A. pumilio, A. spinbractea, A. suberata and A. turbinata).
- The leaves are elliptic to oblong (unlike A. nummularia and A. rhagodioiode).
- The fruiting bracteoles are free and sessile (unlike A. stipitate)
- Bracteoles are without inflated spongy appendages (unlike A. vasicaria).
- The leaves are concolorous (unlike A. paludosa), being silvery or grey green on both sides.
There is no other species that have all the above features within the genus Atriplex. The specimen in question also has to be within the recognised distribution. The features listed above were created with the help of an online Atriplex key on the VicFlora website, retrieved from https://vicflora.rbg.vic.gov.au/flora/key/2191. Additionally, if the specimen being identified is in a known revegetated area, the use of local council planting guides of the area increases the likelihood of correct identification.
In South Australia, it is considered of "least concern – stable" by Seeds of South Australia, a conservation organisation sponsored by the South Australian Government. VicFlora does not describe its conservation status in Victoria. The advisory list of rare or threatened plants in Victoria (2014) do not mention Atriplex cinerea.
- von Mueller, F.J.H. (1889) Iconography of Salsolaceous Plants XV R.S. Brain, Government Printer, Melbourne.
- "Atriplex cinerea". Australian Plant Name Index (APNI), IBIS database. Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research, Australian Government.
- S.W.L. Jacobs. "New South Wales Flora Online: Atriplex cinerea". Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust, Sydney, Australia.
- "Atriplex cinerea". FloraBase. Western Australian Government Department of Parks and Wildlife.
- Walsh, N. G & Entwisle, T. J (1996). Flora of Victoria. Vol.3, Dicotyledons: Winteracecea to Myrtaceae. Inkata. Melbourne: Oxford.
- Kiani-Pouya, A.; Roessner, U.; Jayasinghe, N. S.; Lutz, A.; Rupasinghe, T.; Bazihizina, N. & Shabala, S. (2017). "Epidermal bladder cells confer salinity stress tolerance in the halophyte quinoa and Atriplex species". Plant, Cell & Environment. 40 (6): 1900–1915. doi:10.1111/pce.12995.
- Kadereit, G.; Lauterbach, M.; Pirie, M. D.; Arafeh, R. & Freitag, H. (2014). "When do different C4 leaf anatomies indicate independent C4 origins? Parallel evolution of C4 leaf types in Camphorosmeae (Chenopodiaceae)". Journal of Experimental Botany. 65 (13): 3499-3511. doi:10.1093/jxb/eru169.
- J. H. Maiden (1889). The useful native plants of Australia : Including Tasmania. Turner and Henderson, Sydney.
- Prideaux, G. (2004). "Systematics and Evolution of the Sthenurine Kangaroos". . UC Publications in geological sciences. University of California Press. doi:10.1525/california/9780520098459.001.0001. Retrieved 13 April 2020.
- Wilson, A. D. & Harrington, G. N. (1980). "Nutritive value of Australian browse plants". International Livestock Centre for Africa. Addis Ababa: 291.
- Valderrabano, J.; Munoz, F. & Delgado, I. (1996). "Browsing ability and utilisation by sheep and goats of Atriplex hamilus L. shrubs". Small Ruminant Research. Zaragoza, Spain. Retrieved 13 April 2020.
- "Atriplex cinerea Poir.:FloraBase". FloraBase. Western Australian Herbarium. Retrieved 5 May 2020.
- "Atriplex cinerea". VicFlora. Royal botanical gardens foundation Victoria. Retrieved 5 May 2020.
- Advisory list of rare or threatened plants in Victoria (PDF). Department of the Environment and Primary Industries. ISBN 978-1-74146-313-2. Retrieved 5 May 2020.
- "Atriplex cinerea Poir". Electronic Flora of South Australia Fact Sheet. State Herbarium of South Australia. Archived from the original on 7 February 2012. Retrieved 15 January 2020.
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