Damascus saltwort [Salsola damascena Botsch.] or Wormleaf saltwort [Salsola vermiculata L.] [SASVE][CDFA list: A][Federal Noxious Weed] Photographs Map of Distribution

[Back to Index]


SYNONYMS:Mediterranean saltwort, wormleaf salsola, Salsola vermiculata L. (sensu lato), Salsola vermiculata ssp. tenuifolia (Boissier) Botsch., Salsola rigida Pallas var. tenuifolia Boissier,

GENERAL DESCRIPTION:Shrubby perennial, to about 1 m tall, with inconspicuous flowers and fruits similar to those of Russian thistle [Salsola tragus L.], a related noxious weed. Salsola vermiculata sensu lato is a taxonomically complicated complex of several closely related subspecies or species. In this treatment, plants in California are segregated into a distinct species, S. damascena. Damascus saltwort is listed as a Federal noxious weed because it can act as an alternate host for the virus that causes curly-top in sugarbeets, tomatoes, and melons. Introduced from Syria in 1969 an experimental plant for improving the forage of arid rangelands.

SEEDLINGS:Cotyledons linear, fleshy, green. Subsequent foliage usually densely covered with minute hairs.

MATURE PLANT: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.

ROOTS and UNDERGROUND STRUCTURES:Deep taproot and woody root crown that is able to produce many adventitious buds at the soil surface.

back to top of page

FLOWERS:Summer/Fall. Solitary (rarely 2 or 3) in leaf axils at stem tips. Bracts 1-2, leaf-like. Petals lacking. Calyx (sepals as a unit) 2-3 mm long. Sepals often pinkish and sparsely covered with minute hairs, especially at the apex, with fan-shaped wings ~ 2 mm long.

FRUITS and SEEDS:Utricles (fruiting structures) greenish to gray, surrounded by persistent sepals, 7-12 mm in diameter (including sepal wings), 1-seeded, with remnants of the style at the apex. Seed +/- round, slightly flattened, with a transparent membranous seedcoat (pericarp) and visible coiled embryo.

HABITAT:Disturbed sites, rocky slopes, flats, frequently on clay soils

DISTRIBUTION:Uncommon. Southeastern interior South Coast Ranges (Recruit Grade Pass, Temblor Range, San Luis Obispo Co.; and possibly cw Kern Co.). To 1000 m (3300 ft).

PROPAGATION/PHENOLOGY:Reproduces by seed. Seeds germinate rapidly with adequate moisture and cool temperatures (~ 15º C).

MANAGEMENT FAVORING/DISCOURAGING SURVIVAL:Plants burned to the ground or cut at or below ground level do not grow back from roots, but plants cut to 1 cm or more above ground level can resprout from adventitious axillary buds.

SIMILAR SPECIES:Unlike Damascus saltwort, Russian thistle [Salsola tragus L.], spineless thistle [Salsola collina P.S. Pallas], and barbwire Russian thistle [Salsola paulsenii Litv.] are summer annuals with thread-like leaves before maturity, but develop rigid branches and reduced, stiff, +/- spiny, awl-shaped leaves (or bracts) after flowering. The main stems typically break off at ground level allowing plants to tumble under windy conditions. Russian thistle and barbwire Russian thistle are widespread noxious weeds [CDFA list: C] in California. Spineless thistle [CDFA list: Q] is currently unknown in California, but occurs throughout most of the Midwestern states.

back to top of page