Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Saltmarsh plants flowering

When I was walking out at the Mullens bird roost the other day I noticed that one of the saltmarsh plants was flowering. There are only four main plants out across the flats and this little one stands out because it is the only one that grows as a little bush. It is only 200-300mm in height but because the other plants sprawl out as a mat across the ground this little one is easy to see. I think it is one of the halosarcia species but as my book on saltmarsh species says these plants are distinguished also by "the flower morphology that is often difficult to determine in the field"! (I would be delighted to hear from anyone who could give me some further information on this plant.) Many of the plants were still showing signs of stress because of the recent weather and were red colored. Some, however, were showing new green growth. The flowers are tiny creamish/white elongated 'drops' on the segments of the plants.
I initially noticed the flowers because I heard and then saw bees on the plants. The segments of the plants which had flowers on them were too small for even bees to hang on in any usual fashion so the bees literally wrapped themselves around the 'leaves' to get at the flowers. All the bees that I saw had good amounts of pollen hanging on their back legs - and all of a similar color. I don't know if they had collected this pollen from other sources or if it also came from the saltmarsh flowers.
While watching the bees on the plants I also noticed other movement and then found this little butterfly. I am grateful to Neil and Kel for their wide knowledge of such things and they identified it for me as a Samphire Blue (Theclinesthes sulpitius sulpitius). The larva of this butterfly feeds only on saltmarsh plants. I am told that there is another butterfly very similar to this one that also lives in saltmarsh areas so must keep a good watch for it out there.


  1. Interesting post. Can't help you with ID but regarding the bees, they generally only collect pollen / nectar from one type of flower per sortie so all of that pollen will be from the same plants. I wonder what the honey tastes like.

  2. Hi Mosura, interesting thought as to what the honey would taste like. It's just a bit surprising to think that amount of pollen could come from such tiny flowers.

  3. I don't think I have ever seen Saltmarsh.
    Maybe in Norway...

    Interesting to see that they bloom and take part in helping the bees and butterflies.

    Nature is so amazing!

  4. Hi Nicole, there are fewer and fewer areas of saltmarsh left anywhere. They are areas that are often drained and used for urban development. Around the bay here the areas of saltmarsh are where the migratory shorebirds prefer to roost.

  5. Thanks for the Info,Mick!
    Maybe I'll manage to get into a nature preserve area here this weekend.
    I'll keep my eyes open,maybe I can find some here :)

  6. Hi Mick
    Your Sandy Straits can breathe a little easier tonight, thanks to the work of the Mary River campaigners.

  7. Hi Denis, yes it's great news for everyone - those in the valley itself and also us down here on the coast. The concerns for the shorebirds were that without the Mary River flows into the Sandy Straits we would have a situation similar to where the Murray river enters the sea. It's safe - for now!