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Plantwise Technical Factsheet

Mediterranean saltwort (Salsola vermiculata)

Host plants / species affected
Beta vulgaris (beetroot)
Cucumis melo (melon)
Solanum lycopersicum (tomato)
Description
Post (1932) described S. vermiculata of Syria and Palestine as a perennial, narrow-leaved species; pubescent or gray with soft, white hair; branches panicled and with many branchlets; leaves short, half-clasping from a dilated base; flowers solitary and spiked; and wings obovate. The following description is by Migahid (1996) of S. vermiculata in Saudi Arabia, as a branched shrub, 25-100 cm high, woody at the base, branches long and slender, stiff, yellowish. Leaves very minute and scale-like, crowded in distant small knot-like clusters on thin, yellow, glossy stems. Inflorescence a leafy spike, lobes of perigonium hairy, fruit wings small, pale yellow. Migahid (1996) also gives a description for S. vermiculata ssp. tenuifolia as erect, densely villous undershrub with slender white branches. Leaves well developed, stiff, filiform, recurved, from a narrow clasping base.

A detailed morphological description follows: cotyledons linear, fleshy, green. Subsequent foliage usually densely covered with minute hairs. Deep taproot and woody root crown that is able to produce many adventitious buds at the soil surface. Foliage typically covered with minute hairs, but sometimes becoming glabrous at maturity. Stems slender, straight, ascending to erect, woody at the base, branched throughout. Leaves alternate, 3-9 mm long, oblong to ovate, with rounded tips. Often there are several reduced leaves about 1-4 mm long in the axils. Flowers solitary (rarely 2 or 3) in leaf axils at stem tips. Bracts 1-2, leaf-like. Petals lacking. Perianath of calyx only, united at base, 5-lobed, 2-3 mm long. Sepals often pinkish and sparsely covered with minute hairs, especially at the apex, with fan-shaped wings approximately 2 mm long. Utricles (fruiting structures) greenish to grey, surrounded by persistent sepals, 7-12 mm in diameter (including sepal wings), 1-seeded, with remnants of the style at the apex. Seed more or less round, slightly flattened, with a transparent membranous seed coat (pericarp) and visible coiled embryo.
Prevention and control
Cultural Control

Burning to the ground has been seen to kill plants under experimental conditions (Creager, 1988).

Mechanical Control

Greenhouse plants cut off at ground level failed to resprout and were killed. The same plants when cut at 1 cm or more above ground level were observed to coppice from side shoots (Creager, 1988).

Chemical Control

Due to the variable regulations around (de-)registration of pesticides, we are for the moment not including any specific chemical control recommendations. For further information, we recommend you visit the following resources:

Impact
In California, USA, the plant is known to act as alternate host for a virus that causes curly top in sugarbeet, tomatoes and melons. In several countries of West Asia the plant is considered an important range species under Mediterranean arid conditions for grazing animals. Other effects of the species as a weed are not available.
Summary of invasiveness
As there continue to be further introductions of drought-tolerant fodder species to arid and semi-arid zones worldwide, introduction of S. vermiculata will continue due to intentional planting of the species. It can easily establish from seed under arid Mediterranean conditions and has shown an ability to spread widely once introduced. The plant is considered a valuable range species for rehabilitation of degraded rangelands in west Asia and North Africa, but has also, however, been identified as a noxious weed in California, USA where it is known to be an alternate host for a virus that causes curly top in sugar beet, tomatoes and melons.
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