Salsola vermiculata

Name and classification

Salsola vermiculata L
Family Chenopodiaceae

Common names

shrubby Russian thistle, wormleaf salsola, mediterranean saltwort

Disseminule

fruit

Description

Fruit a 1-seeded utricle with surrounding persistent segmented calyx (sepals), extending into 5 wings: 2 small (minor) wings with expanded limbs, and 3 large, with largest wing between the 2 minor wings. Fruit 6.0–12.0 mm in diameter including wings, 1.0–3.0 mm thick. Wings broad, extending laterally, with fine, light-colored veins; wings usually straw-colored to light brown. Below wings fruit hemispherical, smooth, hardened, often glossy, with a distinct scar. Apex scarious, rough, sparsely pubescent, cone-shaped; triangular calyx segments connivent. Utricle consists of a somewhat flattened spirally coiled embryo covered by thin, membranous pericarp, 2.0–2.5 mm in diameter, 1.0–1.5 mm thick. On one side the retained pericarp forms a ridged cone, on the other a thin layer of pericarp reveals the tightly coiled embryo. Pericarp surface waxy looking, straw colored to orange-yellow, mostly concealing dark brown embryo. Endosperm absent.

Identification considerations

Wing configuration of 2 minor and 3 major wings distinguishes the genus Salsola. Within the genus, the size and shape of the minor wings, prominence of wing venation, and wing orientation are characters used to differentiate species. Salsola vermiculata wings lack the prominent venation seen in the wings of S. tragus and S. paulsenii. The embryo of S. vermiculata is somewhat flattened, while that of S. tragus is conical.

Similar species

Salsola tragus L. (non-FNW)

Salsola paulsenii Litv. (non-FNW)

Distribution

Sudan; Asia: Iran, Israel, Jordan, Russia, Syria; Europe: Italy, Portugal, Spain, United Kingdom; United States

native to Italy, Portugal, and Spain

Habitat

saline and clay soils, sandy arid regions, maritime habitats, rocky slopes, disturbed sites

General information

Salsola vermiculata is a shrubby perennial, up to ca. 1 meter tall. In the Middle East it is grown in pastures for forage. In 1969 this plant was introduced to California in an experiment to improve forage. After the test site was abandoned, S. vermiculata spread into nearby hillsides and canyons. It is uncommon in California, however, being confined to specific locations in San Luis Obispo County.

fruits with persistent calyx

fruits with persistent calyx

apex of fruit (above wings)

apex of fruit (above wings)

base of fruit (below wings)

base of fruit (below wings)

fruits (top view) without persistent calyx, showing coiled embryo

fruits (top view) without persistent calyx, showing coiled embryo

fruits (bottom view) without persistent calyx, showing pericarp

fruits (bottom view) without persistent calyx, showing pericarp

A, fruit with persistent calyx and bracteoles; B, fruit with calyx and bracteoles removed; C, embryo in situ; D, transection of fruit; drawing by Lynda Chandler

A, fruit with persistent calyx and bracteoles; B, fruit with calyx and bracteoles removed; C, embryo in situ; D, transection of fruit; drawing by Lynda Chandler