Plants of
South Australia
Frankenia serpyllifolia
Clustered Sea-heath,
Thyme Sea-heath
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Regional Species Conservation Assessments per IBRA subregion.
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Data deficient
Coober Pedy
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Botanical art

Kath Alcock paintings: 9

Prior names

Frankenia serpyllifolia var. eremophila

Frankenia planifolia

Frankenia latior

Frankenia hamata

Frankenia gracilis

Frankenia eremophila

Frankenia densa

Frankenia connata

Frankenia angustipetala

Frankenia pauciflora var. serpyllifolia

Frankenia flabellata

Common names

Clustered Sea-heath

Thyme Sea-heath


Frankenia named after Johan Frankenius (1590-1661), a Swedish botanist. Serpyllifolia means having leaves like the species Thymus serpyllum (creeping thyme).

Distribution and status

Found scattered across South Australia growing on the maergins of salt lakes and salty depressions. Also found in the Northern Territory, Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. Native. Common in South Australia. Rare in Victoria. Common in the other States.
Herbarium regions: North Western, Lake Eyre, Nullarbor, Gairdner-Torrens, Flinders Ranges, Eastern, Eyre Peninsula, Northern Lofty, Murray
NRM regions: Alinytjara Wilurara, Eyre Peninsula, Northern and Yorke, South Australian Arid Lands, South Australian Murray-Darling Basin
AVH map: SA distribution map (external link)

Plant description

Low, densely branched, sprawling to erect shrub with branches sparsely to densely covered in hairs to 0.5 or more; internodes to 32 mm long. Leaves on long-shoot to 13 mm long with petiole to 2.7 mm long, tapered distally to 1.2 mm wide, ciliate. Leaf-blade elliptic, oblong, obovate or ovate, to 8 mm wide, flat or with margins loosely to tightly revolute; midrib inconspicuous or prominent, linear to flat; surfaces greyish yellow-green, glabrous to densely covered in hairs; short-shoot leaves similar. Flowers 1–19 in terminal or axillary clusters or solitary. Calyx 5-lobed, to 10 mm long and 2 mm wide, glabrous to densely hairy; petals to 15 mm long; stamens 6; style-branches 2 or 3; ovules usually 2 or 3. Flowers throughout the year. Fruits are brown cylindrical capsule. Seeds are light brown, ovoid seed to 2 mm long and 1 mm wide. Seed embryo type is spatulate, fully developed.

Seed collection and propagation

Collect seeds between January and December. Look at the tip of branches for dried flower heads. Collect the heads that are cylindrical, brown, slightly fat at the base. This should contain small ovoid seed. Place the flower heads in a tray and leave to dry for at least a week. Then rub the dried heads gently to dislodge the seeds. Use a fine sieve to separate the seeds from the unwanted material. Be careful as the seeds are very small. 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. Seed set can be low but viability is high. Seeds are non-dormant, viable seed should germinate readily.

Seeds stored:
LocationNo. of seeds
(weight grams)
of plants
Collection number
Collection location
% ViabilityStorage
2,400 (2.44 g)
2,400 (2.44 g)
Lake Eyre
24-Mar-2015100%+5°C, -18°C
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.