Plants of
South Australia
Atriplex spongiosa
Pop saltbush
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Regional Species Conservation Assessments per IBRA subregion.
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Botanical art

Kath Alcock paintings: 3.


Atriplex from the Latin 'atriplexum' meaning an orach, a saltbush; an Ancient Latin name for this plant. Spongiosa from the Greek 'spongos' meaning a sponge, alluding to the globular fruit.

Distribution and status

Found across much of the arid part of South Australia north of Port Augusta, usually in somewhat saline soil. Also found in all mainland states. Native. Common in South Australia. Very rare in Victoria. Common in all other states.
Herbarium regions: North Western, Lake Eyre, Nullarbor, Gairdner-Torrens, Flinders Ranges, Eastern, Eyre Peninsula
NRM regions: Alinytjara Wilurara, Eyre Peninsula, South Australian Arid Lands
AVH map: SA distribution map (external link)

Plant description

Rounded annual or short-lived perennial shrub to 30cm high. Leaves elliptic, broadly elliptic or ovate to 2cm long; acute to obtuse; entire to sinuate-dentate (or rarely deeply serrate); narrowed at the base into a short petiole or sessile, scurfy on both surfaces. Male and female flowers on the same plant. Flowers of both sexes present in axillary glomerules. Fruits are pale-brown spongy, ovoid fruit to 6mm long with a thin, loosely scurfy texture, supported on a network of fibrous veins. Seeds are pale-brown, reniform seed to 2mm long and 1.5mm wide. Seed embryo type is peripheral.

Seed collection and propagation

Collect seeds between October and December. Collect fruits that are starting to turn pale-brown and drying off. Fruits can be collected directly from the bush or from the ground underneath. Place the fruits in a tray and leave to dry for one to two weeks. No cleaning is required if only the fruits are collected. The seed can be stored in the fruit or can be clean further. Rub the fruit gently by hand to dislodge the seeds. Use a sieve to separate the unwanted material. Store the seeds with a desiccant such as dried silica beads or dry rice, in an air tight container in a cool and dry place. From one collection, the seed viability was average, at 70%.

Seeds stored:
LocationNo. of seeds
(weight grams)
of plants
Collection number
Collection location
% ViabilityStorage
BGA10,000 (102.45 g)5020-May-2008RJB720221-Jan-201690%-18°C
BGA36,000 (91.78 g)508-May-2007RJB71740
Lake Eyre
Location: BGA — the seeds are stored at the Adelaide Botanic Gardens, MSB — the seeds are stored at the Millennium Seed Bank, Kew, England.
Number of plants: This is the number of plants from which the seeds were collected.
Collection location: The Herbarium of South Australia's region name.
% Viability: Percentage of filled healthy seeds determined by a cut test or x-ray.
Germination table: