Biosalinity Awareness Project

...understanding the impact of salinization and implications for future agriculture

Global Perspective
Soil, Water & Plants
Salt-Tolerant Plants
Biosaline Agriculture
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Listing of Halophytes & Salt-Tolerant Plants
This descriptive listing was created to highlight those  salt-tolerant plant species which are perceived to have a more immediate potential (high priority) for domestication and sustainable utilization.  Click on the common name for more information and the botanical name for photos.  Unless otherwise indicated, the species listed below are perennials.  Note that some of these plants have the propensity to become invasive or noxious (weedy tendencies) when introduced into supportive, non-competitive environments.  Thus considerable research and planning at the local and regional level is required for their responsible cultivation including the prevention and management of ecologically destructive behavior.  Refer to the Current Research page for recent projects and programs utilizing halophytes in the field.

Salinity Thresholds
Grains & Oilseeds
Vegetables, Fruits & Nuts
Fodder, Forage & Green Manure
Agro-Forestry & Conservation
Medicinal, Industrial & Domestic Uses
Online Databases & Plant Listings

Salinity Thresholds

Salinity thresholds are generally defined as the maximum amount of salt that a plant can tolerate in its root zone without impacting growth.  Other important thresholds indicate the highest level of plant salt-tolerance associated with a decline in yield or biomass (usually between 10-50%); zero yield thresholds specify levels at which a plant can no longer survive.  A continuum exists between extremes in salt-tolerance as demonstrated by the diverse spectrum of plants ~ from those that thrive in seawater and higher salinities to those that cannot tolerate even minimal concentrations without significant decline. 

In general, domesticated plants classified as salt-sensitive have salinity thresholds of 1-3 dS/m and zero yields at 8-16 dS/m (or less) while the ‘moderately’ salt-tolerant have thresholds of 5-10 dS/m and zero yields at 16-24 dS/m.  Not included in the this listing are a number of commercial crops that produce higher quality fruit and lower yields on saline soils or when irrigated with salty water between 3-5 dS/m (i.e. lettuce, melons, grapes, cucumbers, zucchini, pistachio, and tomatoes) as well as others considered ‘moderately’ salt-tolerant (i.e. asparagus, cotton, rapeseed, olives, pomegranates, sorghum, and rye) which for practical purposes can be seen as the line whereby plants cross into the halo-sphere. 

The most common method of measuring salinity is to determine the level of electrical conductivity (EC) within our soils and water.  Increases in EC measurements are directly correlated with increases in the concentration of soluble salts or elemental ions, predominantly sodium and chloride.  Electrical conductivity is most often expressed in units such as decisiemens per meter (dS/m) which quantify the ability of a sample to conduct electrical impulses with a resistance of 1 ohm. 

Soil samples (saturated paste extract) are classified as saline when EC values exceed 4 dS/m while water is considered brackish between 0.7-2.0 dS/m and saline at levels above 2 dS/m.  Rain or distilled water has a conductivity of 0.02-0.05 dS/m whereas seawater, at the other extreme, averages between 45-60 dS/m.  Salinity in water is also measured by the weight of its inorganic particulates or total dissolved solids (TDS), expressed as parts per million (ppm) or milligrams per liter (mg/l): less than 1,000 ppm is considered fresh or potable, greater than 4,000 ppm saline, and between 35,000-45,000 ppm the standard for seawater.  When comparing EC and TDS measurements, note that 1 dS/m is roughly equal to 650-700 ppm, and closer to 800 ppm at relatively higher levels of salinity.

Salinity thresholds are by no means fixed indexes of salt-tolerance rather they can vary widely with environmental conditions and cultivation techniques that influence a plant’s physiological response to increasing salinity.  Some important factors to consider when gauging the impact of salts on plant growth and yield are:

·        soil structure and texture (sand/loam/clay) including fertility and permeability

·        salt concentration variability within sub-soils and the root zone (vertical soil profile)

·        field and habitat inconsistencies from gradual transitions to abrupt patchiness

·        daily/seasonal deviations in the composition/level of soil and water salinity

·        evapotranspiration rates including plant water requirements and soil infiltration

·        life cycle variability of plant salt-tolerance from germination to maturity

·        human interventions such as cultivation, irrigation (leaching), and drainage practices

·        environmental and climatic factors (i.e. temperature, moisture, light, wind, etc.)

When evaluating the salt-tolerance of wild germplasm, genetic (population) variation within a single species or subspecies should also be taken into account.  The salinity thresholds reported below serve only as a guideline to relative tolerances, one of many factors to consider when selecting appropriate halophytic plants for salt-affected lands.  Refer to the Soil, Water & Plants page for more information on plant salt-tolerance as well as other useful measurements and classifications of salinity in our environment. 

Grains & Oilseeds

ACACIA (Acacia spp.) [Mimosaceae, Caesalpiniaceae, and Fabaceae] is a hardy drought-tolerant genus of shrubs/trees with over 1,000 species throughout the arid and semi-arid regions of Africa, Asia, and Australia.  Salt-tolerance varies with species and ecotype while those listed here generally withstand root zone salinities from 9-33 dS/m.  Acacia seeds were an important staple in the Aboriginal diet: eaten raw and toasted or dried and ground into flour to make unleavened bread.  Although the commercial cultivation of acacia for food is still in its infancy, there is a growing demand for its high protein flour and unsaturated oils as well as flavorings (from the roasted seeds) for deserts and beverages.  Acacia aneura has demonstrated significant potential for oilseed (37%) production with nutritive values similar to peanuts while the more salt-tolerant A. dictyophelba, A. victoriae, and A. murrayana may prove to be a viable source of high protein (27%) grain products, up to three times that of most domesticated cereal grains.  In West Africa, easily established drought-tolerant species A. elechantha, A. thomsonii, A. tumida, and A. colei also hold promise as new human food sources.
ALKALI SACATON (Sporobolus airoides) [Poaceace] is a grass, commonly found on sandy alkaline soils in Mexico and the US, that has a demonstrated salt-tolerance of 14 dS/m (some populations withstanding up to 45 dS/m).  The seeds were a complimentary food source for the Native Americans, often mixed with corn to make a finely ground meal, baked into bread or cooked as gruel.  Although considered famine food by the Hopi Indians, further nutritive studies and plant selection is necessary to determine its potential as human and/or animal feed.  Even though alkali sacaton is considered an attractive reclamation grass, it is used infrequently for forage, erosion control, and ornamental purposes.

ARGAN TREE (Argania spinosa) [Sapotaceae] is an extremely drought- and salt-tolerant evergreen tree that grows in the bush lands of southwestern Morocco.  Its small plum-sized fruits contain almond-shaped kernels that have an extremely high oil content (over 50%), with a fatty acid composition similar to olive oil.  Commanding a high price in European and North African specialty markets, it is considered excellent culinary oil (walnut flavor) with considerable amounts of polyphenols and tocopherals.  The second press is used in lamps, soap, and cosmetics while the pasty residue is often sweetened and eaten like nut butter.  The sturdy timber and nutshells provide for fuel and raw construction materials.  Although still only a cottage industry in Morocco, commercial plantations of recently developed high-yielding cultivars have been established in Israel.  The argan tree can also be used for conservation – preventing soil erosion, providing shade for pasture grasses, and promoting aquifer replenishment – creating an effective barrier to further desertification in North Africa.  On the coastal hills, the araar tree (Tetraclinis articulata) is considered to be a similar 'relic' species, harvested for its resin (lacquers and varnishes) and timber (building and furniture).

BARLEY (Hordeum vulgare) [Poaceace] is the most drought- and salt-tolerant of the domesticated cereal grains (up to 8 dS/m), and is often substituted for wheat when conditions became too salty.  When germinated in freshwater, select cultivars and wild varieties (University of Arizona) grown on sand dunes irrigated with saline water (20 dS/m) have yielded up to 4 tons/ha.  Various hybrids developed in Pakistan can tolerate root zone salinity levels of up to 19 dS/m.  Further breeding and selection holds great promise for increasing the salt-tolerance of this important food staple; in Turkey, wild weedy relatives such as foxtail barley (H. jubatum) represent a significant genetic resource, and are still being crossed with domesticated varieties for improved crop performance.  Ethiopian strains of drought-tolerant barley are now being successfully cultivated in the southwest US.

COCONUT PALM (Cocos nucifera) [Arecaceae] is considered one of the most useful plants in the world; endemic to the coastal tropics and generally tolerant of extreme salt spray and seawater flooding.  The meat from the nut (copra) is a valuable source of high quality edible oil, desiccated coconut meat, and a rich cream or milk used in cooking and processed foods as well as cosmetics and other industrial applications.  It is one of the few oils that can be used for cooking at high temperatures without molecular distortion, and the only plant-based source of medium-chain triglycerides (saturated fats) that contain significant amounts of lauric and caprylic acids (known for their anti-viral/fungal properties).  The residual cake is primarily used as a fodder supplement, and the sap from the flowers, often fermented into toddy, can yield up to one gallon of sugar per day.  The terminal bud of young seedlings can be eaten raw, cooked or pickled.  The husk and nut are dried and used for fuel, fiber, and mulch while the entire tree can be harvested for raw building materials.  In India, the coconut palm is known as that which provides for all of life’s necessities.  Other useful oil palms that grow in moderately saline habitats include the American and African oil palms (Elaeis oleifera and E. guineensis), the pine cone and monkey-cap palms (Raphia taedigera and Manicaria saccifera) native to the Americas, the nibung palm (Oncosperma filamentosa) of Southeast Asia, and the bamboo palm (Raphia vinifera) of West Africa.

CROWFOOT GRASS (Dactyloctenium aegyptium) [Poaceace], commonly found in Africa and the Middle East, is an annual Old World grass which tolerates salinity levels between 10,000-15,000 ppm (some populations can withstand up to 35,000 ppm).  Although it is considered a high quality forage and cultivated fodder in the semi-arid regions, the seeds can also be dried and ground into flour or meal.  Its prolific seed production under saline conditions holds promise as a future grain crop.  Another comparable grass, goose grass (Eleusine indica), holds similar potential for cereal production.

EEL GRASS (Zostera marina) [Zosteraceae] is a submerged aquatic herb that grows in shallow tidal regions and coastal marine habitats.  Harvested by the Native Americans, the sweet rhizomes and stems were eaten fresh or as dried cakes while the toasted seeds were made into gruel or glutinous bread.  The seeds contain 13% protein, 1% fat, and 50% starch with good amino acid composition and mineral content.  Eel grass beds tend to stabilize bottom sediment, and provide shelter and food for a variety of marine species.  Until its decline (due to wasting disease) in the 1930’s, eel grass was used in Europe for compost, fuel, and medicine.  A similar aquatic species, known as tape seagrass (Enhalus acoroides), has edible seeds that taste like water chestnuts.

IODINE BUSH (Allenrolfea occidentalis) [Chenopodiaceae] is a succulent evergreen bush, somewhat similar to Salicornia, growing in the inland salt marshes and arid saltlands of the western US.  Although it has an extremely high salt-tolerance (up to 56 dS/m), its utilization as a potential food crop needs to be further investigated.  Once used as a source of iodine, the Native Americans occasionally harvested and ate the seeds toasted, ground, and cooked into gruel. 

PALMER SALTGRASS (Distichlis palmeri) [Poaceace], native to the southwest US and Mexico, is commonly found growing in muddy tidal flats, salt marshes, and estuarine habitats with elevated salt concentrations.  Although it can withstand salinity levels greater than seawater, palmer saltgrass achieves optimum growth and yields at 15,000-20,000 ppm.  With a deep root system that reaches down at least 1.5 meters, it is ideally suited to saline discharge and waterlogged zones as well as mixed seawater irrigation.  Until the 1950’s, it was an important food staple for the Cocopah Indians in the Gulf of California where a dense standing crop could yield up to one ton of grain per hectare.  Once thought to be extinct, high-yielding cultivars (Wild Wheat) developed by NyPa, have demonstrated yields of 2-3 tons/ha and are now being planted in the Americas, Australia, Asia, and the Middle East.  The grain, which tastes like wild rice, is
gluten-free and high in fiber with a good balance of amino acids: it can be boiled, toasted or ground into flour to make bread similar in texture and consistency to that of wheat.

(Pennisetum typhoides) [Poaceace] is an annual grass, traditionally cultivated as food grain in
India and Africa, and more recently for forage/fodder in the US where it is perceived as a superior feed.  Originating in West Africa, pearl millet performs well on poor quality soils under drought and saline conditions.  Despite its current reputation as livestock feed, the grain is a highly nutritious foodstuff with more than 9% protein and a good balance of amino acids.  The whole grain can be cooked or roasted, cracked and steamed (couscous), or ground into flour and baked.  Trials in India demonstrate that pearl millet can grow and produce seed on coastal dunes irrigated with full-strength seawater.  Under these harsh conditions, grain yields can still be as high as 1.6 tons/ha, and up to 6.5 tons/ha for fodder production.  Sterile hybrids of P. typhoides and P. purpureum developed at the Punjab Agricultural University have resulted in faster growing and better quality millet for fodder that can be cut continuously for up to three years: subsequent crops are propagated by root-slips and stem-cuttings at no additional cost to the farmer. 

QUINOA (Chenopodium quinoa) [Chenopodiaceae] has been grown in the Andean highlands for over 5,000 years and was considered the ‘mother grain’ by the Incas.  It is a drought- and salt-tolerant annual which is now found growing wild in the saltflats of
Bolivia and Chile.  While most cultivars experience optimal growth at 10-20 dS/m, a number of wild populations that can withstand salinities of 40 dS/m or more are currently being used in breeding programs.  The tasty grain, with its good protein (12%) and high vitamin/mineral content, holds tremendous potential as a staple food crop that can be grown on drought-prone and previously unproductive lands.  Current commercial yields, primarily on small-scale organic farms, can be as high as 4 tons/ha.  Processed grain products, such as oil, flour, milk, tempeh and protein concentrates, are now being analyzed for their future viability.

SALICORNIA (Salicornia spp.) [Chenopodiaceae] grows in most coastal marine environments throughout the world, from warm tropical to cold temperate zones.  It is perhaps the most promising of all halophytes currently under commercial cultivation; common names for this annual salt marsh succulent include sea asparagus, pickleweed, glasswort, and samphire.  Traditionally burned for soda ash used in glass and soap making, it is now being seriously considered for its oil (30%) production with yields that exceed many freshwater oilseed crops.  Commercial cultivars of Salicornia bigelovii have demonstrated seed yields of 2-3 tons/ha with an overall biomass production of 20 tons/ha.  The high protein edible oil has a fatty acid composition similar to safflower, with a nutty taste and the texture of olive oil.  When mixed with traditional fodder, the residual meal makes for an excellent feed supplement.  As a green vegetable that can be eaten raw or pickled, it commands a high price in the gourmet food markets of Europe and the US.  A number of other Salicornia species, including S. rubra, S. europaea, S. herbacea, S. peruviana, and S. virginica, hold similar economic potential.  Many of these can be irrigated with wastewater (effluent) from aquaculture operations and have demonstrated the ability to detoxify contaminated soils, in particular those with high levels of inorganic selenate.  Select varieties of S. brachiata are now being cultivated in the deserts of India where value-added by-products like vegetable salt are being test marketed.

(Batis maritima) [Bataceae], native to the coastal mudflats and salt marshes of the Americas, is a spreading succulent-leaved ground cover that can tolerate seawater irrigation and flooding.  Used by the Native Americans, the sweet roots were chewed (like sugar cane) or boiled into a beverage while the stems and leaves were eaten raw, cooked or pickled.  Studies at the University of Guelph suggest that saltwort has great potential as an oilseed crop high in protein (17%), and rich in essential amino acids and tocopherol antioxidants.  The oil, ideal for cooking with a pleasant nutty flavor, is also high in phytosterols which have been shown to reduce serum cholesterol levels.  The residual starches after extraction may prove useful for value-added products such as soap and cosmetics.  With its significant biomass yields (up to 17 tons/ha), saltwort is now being used for sand dune stabilization, reclamation, and landscaping in the Middle East.  A related species Batis argillicola, found throughout
Southeast Asia and Australia, is often eaten raw as a green vegetable.

SEA OATS (Uniola paniculata) [Poaceace] is an attractive dune grass native to the coastal regions of the southeastern US, Mexico, and the Caribbean.  It is tolerant of saline soils and sea spray, and the spreading rhizomes are highly effective in stabilizing sand dunes and controlling coastal erosion.  The seeds, which have good protein and starch content, can be cooked and eaten as a flavorful gruel somewhat similar to oatmeal; related species
U. palmeri and U. virgata are wild harvested for grain in Puerto Rico and Mexico.  (weedy tendencies)

SEASHORE MALLOW (Kosteletzkya virginica) [Malvaceae] is an attractive herbaceous shrub that grows in the brackish portions of coastal tidal marshes of the southeastern US and, once established, can tolerate salinity levels of 20,000-25,000 ppm.  The hulled seeds resemble millet and can yield up to 1.5 tons/ha with a high protein (32%) and oil (22%) content composed largely of unsaturated fatty acids with high potassium and low sodium.  Cultivars developed at the University of Delaware have been introduced in China in order to assess their value as a salt-tolerant oilseed crop where select high yielding breeding lines have been crossed for trials on large-scale plantations.  It is also has great potential for landscaping and ornamental purposes.

TUBULAR WATER-DROPWORT (Oenanthe fistulosa) [Apiaceae] is a hydro-halophytic herb (parsley family) native to Europe.  The seeds can be ground into flour/meal or pressed for oil, however their nutritive and commercial potential has yet to be fully explored.

WILD RICE (Zizania aquatica) [Poaceace], native to North America, is a tall aquatic grass that grows in the shallow brackish waters of rivers, ponds, and lakes.  Some populations can tolerate slightly elevated saline conditions up to 8 dS/m.  Three of the predominant wild species – Z. aquatica along the east coast, Z. palustris in the north and west into Canada, and the endangered Z. texana in the southwest – provide much of the germplasm for commercial cultivars that are selected primarily for their yield and resistance to seed shattering.  Wild rice was an important food staple for the Native Americans, high in protein (17%) and low in fat (1.2%); yields can vary between 100-300 kg/ha depending on density of the stand.  Selective breeding programs based on ecotype variations could potentially lead to the domestication of more salt-tolerant varieties.

Vegetables, Fruits & Nuts

AGAVE (Agave spp.) [Agavaceae] is a salt- and drought-tolerant succulent shrub (lily family) of the dry open deserts of the Americas.  Evidence suggests that A. deserti and A. murpheyi have been an important source of high energy food for over 9,000 years.  Among the Native Americans of Mexico and the southwest US, the most popular way of preparing Agave consisted of harvesting the whole plant just prior to flowering and baking it in a pit or earth oven.  The sweet roasted stalks were eaten directly out of the fire or pressed into cakes that were dried and stored for future use; in addition, the buds and young flowering stems were often eaten raw, roasted or boiled.  Today, the nectar from the young stalks of A. tequilana is used in the manufacture of tequila and healthy sugar substitutes while A. sisalana and A. fourcroydes are processed into sisal and henequen, a durable fiber used in a variety of domestic and industrial applications.

BEETS (Beta vulgaris) [Chenopodiaceae] are one of the few domesticated annual crops that have demonstrated salt-tolerance above 8 dS/m (after the seedling stage), withstanding salinity thresholds up to 19 dS/m with an associated 50% reduction in green matter.  The culinary, sugar, and fodder uses of beet varieties are well known as is their tolerance for toxic levels of manganese.  Beets are also a potential source of liquid biofuels when, like maize, the sugar is extracted and made into ethylalcohol.  All of our domesticated varieties of beets originated from the more salt-tolerant wild sea beet (Beta vulgaris var. maritima) which grows on the sandy well-drained soils of the Mediterranean.  The young leaves of these wild beets can be eaten raw, cooked or processed for leaf protein concentrates while the seeds have been effective in some cancer treatments.

CACTUS APPLE (Cereus peruvianus) [Cactaceae] is a large thorny columnar found throughout the deserts of South America.  Traditionally used as an ornamental, it is salt- and heat-tolerant cactus that can grow up to 15 meters producing sweet (perfumed) thornless fruits that are crisp and refreshing.  Established breeding orchards in Israel now provide an extensive resource for the selection of future cultivars with improved taste and texture.  Easily propagated by cuttings, their commercial potential is now being fully explored by a number of private enterprises: to date, sales have been limited to specialty markets in Europe, Australia, and the US. 

CAPERS (Capparis spinosa) [Capparaceae] is a deep-rooting shrub native to the Mediterranean and the arid regions of West and Central Asia.  It is often found growing in sandy or rocky soils with good sun and can tolerate moderate levels of sea spray and soil salinity.  Their spreading habit close to the ground acts as a live mulch conserving scarce freshwater resources.  The immature flower buds with their spicy flavor are eaten as a fresh vegetable or pickle; a variety of high yielding cultivars are now available commercially.  Mustard capers (Capparis sinaica) is a wild relative, with similar characteristics and a slightly higher salt-tolerance, that grows well in the salt-affected regions of the Sinai Desert and Arava Valley of Israel.

CAROB (Ceratonia siliqua) [Fabaceae], native to the Mediterranean, is a leguminous evergreen tree with moderate salinity and good drought-tolerance.  It can adapt to a wide variety of poor soil conditions and withstands harsh environmental factors such cold and wind.  The trees, which form a dense shade canopy, are often interplanted with other crops such as barley, grapes, almonds, and olives.  Carob pods are composed of a sweet pulp (50% sugar) and valuable seeds from which carob or locust bean gum is derived.  The pulp is eaten fresh, made into confectionary or converted into high protein animal feed while the gum is widely used as a stabilizer and thickener in a variety of processed foods and industrial applications.  The leaves can be browsed by livestock and the trees culled for their high quality timber.  Crete is currently exploring the feasibility of producing biofuels (ethylalcohol) from carob pulp.

CATTAIL (Typha angustifolia and T. domingensis) [Typhaceae] is an aquatic herb with long narrow leaves, a common wetland species of the Americas found in a wide range of saline habitats from 10,000 to 37,000 ppm.  The young stems and tender spikes were eaten raw, cooked or pickled by the Native Americans while the starchy rhizomes were dry roasted and ground into flour.  The leaves and stems have been used to make domestic necessities such as mats, baskets, rope, rafts, and paper; in South America, the roots are known to have medicinal qualities.  Annual biomass production of managed cattail swamps, averaging between 10-20 tons/ha, can be effectively used for conservation and phytoremediation in wetlands contaminated with nitrates, phosphates, and heavy metals.  (weedy tendencies)

CEYLON SPINACH (Basella alba and B. rubra) [Basellaceae] is a fast-growing climbing vine, commonly cultivated as a green vegetable in Africa, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand.  Grown easily from cuttings, it is a prolific producer in wet tropical environments; the young leaves and stems are eaten raw or cooked.  In the warmer temperate regions, it grows as an annual and has been adopted by backyard vegetable gardeners throughout the world.  Ceylon spinach
(also known as water spinach) can now be found in gourmet food markets and specialty salad mixes in Europe, Australia, and the US.  Although its salt-tolerance is not well documented, it is considered to have certain hydro-halophytic characteristics.

CHINESE WATER CHESTNUT (Eleocharis dulcis) [Cyperaceae] is a moderately salt-tolerant (5-8 dS/m) rush-like, aquatic plant most prevalent in the coastal swamps of Southeast Asia and the Pacific.  The crisp edible rhizomes (texture and flavor of chestnuts) are commonly used in Asian cuisine and can be ground into a palatable meal.  It is being grown commercially in China, Thailand, and Australia primarily for canned vegetables, processed beverages, and desserts.

CHINESE WOLFBERRY (Lycium barbarum) [Solanaceae] is a salt-tolerant shrub, found throughout China, that is highly adaptable to a variety of harsh growing conditions.  The sweet berries, which have a mild licorice flavor, can be eaten fresh or dried like raisins whereas the young leaves and shoots are often cooked as vegetable greens.  It can also be utilized as a protective hedge and for sand dune stabilization.  For thousands of years, the berries have been used in traditional Chinese medicine as a liver, kidney, and blood tonic that has proven effective in lowering blood pressure and cholesterol.  Juice and extracts from the fruit are now being marketed as an antioxidant herbal supplement. 
Other related species with similar edible fruits include the South American L. chiliensis and L. tenuispoinosum as well as the North American L. fremontii

COCOPLUM (Chrysobalanus icaco) [Chrysobalanaceae] is a dense evergreen shrub/tree with edible plum-like fruits, most often used for ornamental hedges and borders in Florida and the Caribbean.  The soft, cottony pulp, sweet and somewhat astringent, is eaten raw or cooked into syrup or preserves while the large kernel, which has a high oil content and taste similar to almonds, can be consumed raw or roasted.  Cocoplum also has great potential for large-scale utilization in water efficient landscaping and sand dune stabilization.  Beach plum (Prunus maritima) is a temperate zone deciduous shrub of the Northeast US with very similar fruit and salt-tolerance characteristics.

DATE PALM (Phoenix dactylifera) [Arecaceae] is thought to have originated in the Persian Gulf, and is perhaps the oldest cultivated tree.  It is an erect palm up to 30 meters with a large crown of fronds, now commonly found in many arid regions throughout the world.  Most date palms stop fruiting at salinity levels above 10,000 ppm while a few populations have been observed to tolerate up to 18,000 ppm.  Dates have been a traditional food staple in North Africa and the Middle East for more than 6,000 years and are now a sustainable source of foreign exchange for many of these countries.  One of its closest relatives, silver date palm (P. sylvestris), still grows wild in the Indus Valley and is argued by some to be the source of modern commercial varieties.  With more than 1,000 cultivars, date palms could be more fully exploited for commercial fruit production, particularly in warm and dry temperate zones.  Dried dates (80% sugar content) are most often eaten as is or processed into a variety of sweets and drinks.  In the desert regions, dates and their soaked seeds are a nutritious source of feed for camels, goats, and horses.  The seeds can also be roasted and ground as a coffee substitute while the tender young leaves are cooked and eaten as a green vegetable.  With more moderate salt and higher sea spray tolerance, the canary palm (P. canariensis) is one of the most popular ornamental palms.

EGGFRUIT (Pouteria campechiana and P. lucuma syn. P. obovata) [Sapotaceae] is an evergreen tree that grows in the cool temperate regions of the Andean Highlands, once cultivated by the Incas for their unique starchy fruit (good source of carbohydrates).  It is considered to be tolerant of seawater salinity and improved grafting techniques have produced higher yielding cultivars with better quality fruit.  Recently, tropical fruit growers in Florida and Central America have supplied organic specialty markets in the US with minimal consumer acceptance.  The fruit is often eaten fresh or made into puddings and desserts, however, it may have greater commercial potential when it is dehydrated and ground into a flour or powder for ice cream, beverages, and flavorings: a taste that resembles a cross between maple syrup and egg custard.

GOOSE TONGUE (Plantago maritima) [Plantaginaceae] is endemic to the salt marshes along the Pacific Coast of North America with some populations tolerating maritime exposure and salinity levels up to 45 dS/m.  The tasty young leaves (considered anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial) are eaten fresh in salads or cooked like collard greens whereas the seed is most often used as a laxative.  A number of closely related species with similar uses include P. australis, P. coronopus, and P. crassifolia.

ICE PLANT (Mesembryanthemum crystallinum) [Aizoaceae] is an annual succulent, native to South Africa, now prevalent along the sandy coasts and rocky deserts of the Mediterranean and North America where it was introduced as a ground cover for erosion control.  Certain populations can tolerate seawater salinity and a number of varieties are considered xero-halophytes.  Both leaves and seeds are edible; the leaves have a buttery lemon herb flavor with a fleshy texture and can be eaten raw, boiled or pickled.  In South Africa, the entire plant is beaten, fermented, and chewed.  Ice plant is currently being field tested for its soil stabilization and overall rehabilitation potential in the Aral Sea basin.

JELLY PALM (Butia capitata) [Arecaceae] is native to savannahs and dry woodlands of Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay; an attractive feather-leaved palm that is moderately tolerant of salt and sea spray.  Its small fruits, which have an exotic taste from sweet to sour (apricot/pineapple), are eaten fresh or made into jellies and deserts.  Jelly palms are often planted for dune stabilization and ornamental purposes in the southern US into Northern California where it can tolerate occasional frost.

JUJUBE (Ziziphus mauritiana) [Rhamnaceae] is a large shrub/tree with dense spreading branches, originating in India and now cultivated throughout the world for its fruit.  In India, where there are more than 90 cultivars, it is eaten raw, pulped for cold drinks or made into pickle, while in Africa the dried and fermented pulp is pressed into sweet cakes (a good source of energy and carbohydrates).  The wood is a source of building materials and the leaves (15% protein) can be browsed by livestock.  In India, Z. nummularia, a more salt-tolerant wild species found throughout the Thar Desert of Rajasthan, has been used as rootstock for Z. mauritiana with significantly improved tolerance of waterlogging and drought conditions; Z. spina-christi is another potential source of improved rootstock.

(Pithecellobium dulce) [Mimosaceae] is a hardy leguminous evergreen tree commonly found on the poor sandy soils of Asia and the Americas.  The young leaves can be eaten fresh or pickled while the fleshy pods are eaten as a sweet, tangy fruit, often made into beverages, sweets or curries.  The seeds contain 20% oil which can be refined for cooking or soap while the leaves, pods, and residual cake meal (30% protein) are often utilized as a feed supplement.  Other commercial uses include timber, shelterbelts, hedgerows, and landscaping.  (weedy tendencies)

MARULA (Sclerocarya birrea var. caffra) [Anacardiaceae] is a large deciduous tree native to South Africa that has not yet been exploited commercially.  It has been a traditional food source, bearing small mango-like fruits (eaten fresh or processed into jelly or liqueur) with high vitamin C content; the edible and highly nutritious kernels contain oils (56%) with valuable antioxidant properties.  This relatively fast-growing, salt- and drought-tolerant tree can also be cultivated for timber and shelterbelts.  Recent efforts in Africa and the Middle East (Israel) to domesticate the tree acknowledge its potential for fruit orchard cultivation and related value-added processed products (i.e. juice, brandy, and sweets).  Although accurate measurements are not available, established orchards in Israel are being irrigated with brackish and saline water between 5-8 dS/m.

MAZARI PALM (Nannorrhops ritchiana) [Arecaceae] is an extremely hardy shrub that grows well in poor quality soils from the Arabian Peninsula to the deserts of Pakistan and Afghanistan.  It is tolerant of wide variations in temperature, moisture, and salinity.  The young leaves and fruit are eaten by indigenous peoples of the Middle East while the more fibrous leaves/stems are used for fuel, baskets, and thatch.  Mazari palm also makes for hardy and attractive landscape plant.

MONGONGO (Ricinodendron rautanenii) [Euphorbiaceae], native to South Africa, is a large deciduous tree cultivated for its tasty fruit and kernel.  As a traditional food source in the Kalahari Desert, the creamy nut meat is eaten raw or roasted, with a taste similar to cashew or macademia; it is high in protein (38%) and rich in fats (57%).  Mongongo has recently been planted as a drought-tolerant landscape tree in Zimbabwe.

(Carissa edulis, C. grandiflora, and C. macrocarpa) [Apocynaceae], frequently used for hedgerows, is a hardy, compact South African shrub with tart edible plum-like fruits.  It tolerates extremely poor saline soils, shifting sands, and moderate sea spray.  The fruits, which are a good source of ascorbic acid, are eaten fresh (immature and ripe) or cooked with sugar to make beverages and jam, with a flavor that resembles cranberries.  Sprawling cultivars are now being used for beachfront groundcover in Florida.

NEW ZEALAND SPINACH (Tetragonia tetragonoides) [Tetragoniaceae] is a fast-growing shrubby herb prevalent in the salt marshes and sheltered coasts of Australia and New Zealand.  The plant is only moderately salt-tolerant (5-8 dS/m) yet grows prolifically during the hot and wet summer months.  The young leaves can be eaten raw as a salad green while the more mature leaves are cooked in order to reduce their oxalic acid.  New Zealand spinach is popular with backyard vegetable gardeners and can be found in specialty markets throughout the US, Europe, and Australia.  Other Tetragonia species with edible leaves include T. arbuscula and T. eremaea.

NIPA PALM (Nypa fruticans) [Arecaceae] grows in brackish tidal marshes and mangrove estuaries from India to Australia, with extensive stands throughout Southeast Asia.  Also known as mangrove palm, it is tolerant of seawater and dependent on infrequent flooding which facilitates seed dispersal.  The young shoots are eaten as a green vegetable and the immature jelly-like fruit is used in deserts.  The primary economic potential of the nipa palm lies in the tapping and harvesting of its sugary sap which can yield up to 8,000 liters of alcohol per hectare per year.

OAK-LEAVED GOOSEFOOT (Chenopodium glaucum) [Chenopodiaceae] is an herbaceous annual cultivated throughout Europe and Asia.  The young leaves and shoots are cooked like spinach (to reduce oxalic acid content) while the seeds can be toasted, ground into flour, and mixed with other grains for bread.  Although not endemic to salt-affected lands, it can grow in moderately saline environments without competition.  A related species, C. macrospermum native to South America, tolerates salinity up to 15 dS/m and can be utilized in similar ways.

PITAYAS [Cactaceae] is the common name for a variety of cactus species.  Columnar cacti, such as pitaya agria (Stenocereus gummosus) and cardon (Pachycerus pringlei), grow wild in the deserts of the US and Mexico yielding fruits similar to prickly pear.  These fruit are often dried and pressed into cakes for future use, the seeds of which can be ground into a nutritious paste.  Fruit-bearing vine cacti with proven commercial viability include the yellow pitaya (Selenicereus megalanthus) and red pitaya (Hylocereus undatus) available in many local markets in South America, and now being exported by Columbia.

PRICKLY PEAR (Opuntia ficus-indica) [Cactaceae] is a trunk-forming cactus with large succulent pads widely cultivated in Mexico.  It is highly adaptable to sandy, rocky soils in dry arid environments.  The fruits are eaten fresh, dried or processed into sweets and beverages whereas the young tender pads can be used raw in spicy salads, pickles or cooked as a green vegetable.  The seeds can be ground into a palatable meal while both the fruit and pads are used as fodder in tropical (Brazil), subtropical (Madagascar and South Africa) and semi-arid Mediterranean (North Africa) zones.  Prickly pear can also be used effectively as a living fence and for inland sand dune stabilization.  A closely related species, O. paediophilia found in Argentina, also yields edible fruit and pads.  Another cactus species known as turk’s cap (Melocactus intortus), prevalent in the Caribbean, produces tasty pink fruits with a taste that resembles a cross between strawberries and kiwis.

QUANDONG (Santalum acuminatum) [Santalaceae]
, once a traditional food staple of the Aborigines, is a highly adaptable tree that grows in Australia’s arid inland regions and yields edible fruits and kernels.  The fruits which are high in vitamin C can be eaten fresh or used for jams while the protein-rich and fatty (58% oil) kernel was roasted and eaten when animal meat and other high protein foods were not available.  Quandong is known as a parasite and relies, in part, on the nutrients from surrounding nitrogen-fixing trees and legumes.  A number of cultivars are now available and commercial plantations have been established in Australia.

(Manilkara zapota) [Sapotaceae], native to the Americas, is a large tropical evergreen tree grown commercially for its unique fruit with the taste of cinnamon and the texture of a pear: primarily eaten fresh or made into deserts, the delicate fruit is highly perishable.  It grows well on the coast and has a good tolerance of salinity (up to 15 dS/m), waterlogging, and sea spray.  Breeders in India have been successful in grafting M. zapota shoots onto M. hexandra rootstock for higher yielding varieties with even greater salt-tolerance.  India is by far the largest producer, successfully growing sapodillas on the marginal lands of the coast and inland deserts.  As did the Mayan Indians, countries in South and Central America still cultivate sapodilla for its chicle or masticated gum (tapped from the trunk) as well as its durable timber.

SEA ASTER (Aster tripolium) [Asteraceae] is an annual temperate herb with attractive flowers that grows wild in coastal salt marshes and seaside cliffs from Europe to Japan.  The young fleshy leaves, which are high in protein, vitamins and minerals, are eaten raw or cooked.  Considered a delicacy, it is now being cultivated as a green vegetable for gourmet restaurants and specialty markets in Europe.

SEA BLITE (Suaeda spp.) [Chenopodiaceae] is an evergreen shrub endemic to coastal regions around the world, cultivated as an annual in more temperate climates.  It thrives in extremely saline habitats and can often tolerate full-strength seawater irrigation.  In India and Pakistan, the foliage of Suaeda maritima has been used traditionally as a vegetable, forage/fodder, and more recently for sand dune stabilization and land reclamation.  S. linearis was source of food for Native Americans in Florida: the young leaves and stems were used as a culinary herb, and the seeds ground into flour for bread.  In Australia, Aborigines and settlers wild harvested S. australis as a green vegetable.  Investigations are currently underway for exploiting the commercial potential of oilseed production from a number Suaeda species including S. suffrutescens, S. divaricata, S. jacoensis, S. fruticosa, S. mexicana, S. nigrescens, and S. palmeri.

SEA FENNEL (Crithmum maritimum) [Apiaceae], originating in the Mediterranean, is a succulent seaside shrub which can withstand salinity levels of 56 dS/m and colder temperate climates.  The long, thin fleshy leaves and young seedpods, high in vitamin C, can be used as fresh greens, tasty pickles or potherbs.  Medicinal decoctions and their diuretic effects can help in the detoxification of the liver and kidneys.

SEA GRAPE (Coccoloba uvifera) [Polygonaceae], common throughout the American tropics, is an evergreen shrub/tree that grows on the sandy soils of the coast.  Tolerant of seawater salinity up to 35,000 ppm or 46 dS/m, it forms dense bushy colonies on the coast and spreading trees further inland.  It is often used for landscaping purposes and windbreaks along beaches.  Though commercial cultivation is unknown, the fruit is wild harvested, made into jelly or fermented into wine in the Caribbean and Florida: when ripe, it has a sweet but slightly tart flavor.  The leaves, bark, and roots were traditionally used by the Native Americans to make medicinal teas.

SEA KALE (Crambe maritima) [Brassicaceae], native to Europe and the Black Sea region, is a herb that grows in coastal sands and can tolerate moderate to extreme salinity.  Similar to foliated cabbage with blue-green leaves, the etiolated shoots (which resemble white asparagus) and young rosettes are considered a delicacy, eaten raw or cooked.  Once cultivated in the UK, its recent popularity has prompted the development of new cultivars in France where it is featured in gourmet markets and restaurants.  It is easily propagated by root cuttings with yields similar to asparagus.

SEA ORACH (Atriplex halimus) [Chenopodiaceae] is an evergreen shrub that grows on the edge of coastal marshes and exposed saline lands of the Americas, Mediterranean, and Central Asia.  Although sensitive to waterlogging, most Atriplex species grow well in saline soils between 20-30 dS/m without any significant impact on growth.  The tasty young leaves and shoot tips of A. triangularis, A. arenaria, and A. canescens, prevalent in North America, can be eaten raw or cooked like spinach (no oxalic acid) whereas A. hortensis is commonly cultivated in India as a green leafy vegetable and livestock fodder; some A. hortensis cultivars used for animal feed can yield up to 21 tons/ha (fresh) with 16% leaf protein content.

SEA PURSLANE (Sesuvium portulacastrum and S. verrucosum) [Aizoaceae] is a spreading succulent herb common in the US and Caribbean, now widely cultivated throughout Asia.  Found growing on beaches and coastal dunes, the stems and leaves are eaten as a green vegetable or fed to livestock.  Another distinct species
with the same common name, Halimione portulacoides, which is found in pantropical salt marshes has flattened gray-green leaves and is used exclusively for fodder.  Common purslane (Portulaca oleracea), vitamin-rich with high omega-3 fatty acids, is an annual herb that grows in moderately saline wastelands: the stems and leaves, eaten fresh, pickled or cooked, are popular winter greens in India.  Other related species with edible leaves include P. parvula and P. ragonesi; the seeds of horse purslane (Trianthema portulacrastrum) were often ground and cooked as gruel by the Native Americans.  Many of these salt-tolerant purslane varieties can also be used for drainage water recycling, phytoremediation, groundcover, and soil stabilization.

SEA ROCKET (Cakile maritima) [Brassicaceae], native to the sandy soils of coastal Europe, is a salt-tolerant annual herb (up to 18 dS/m).  The peppery succulent leaves, stems, and young seedpods taste like horseradish and are eaten raw or cooked.  The roots can be dried and ground into flour for making bread.  Introduced to North America, the more pervasive C. edentula has been identified as a potential oilseed plant with 29% protein and 52% oil content.  A related species with a distinctive mustard flavor, C. lanceolata var. fusiformis, is used throughout the Caribbean giving tang to soups and stews.

SPANISH DAGGER (Yucca whipplei) [Agavaceae] is a cactus commonly found in the inland deserts and sandy coasts of the Americas.  Once an important source of food for Native Americans, the young buds and flower petals can be eaten raw in salads or cooked while the sugary stalks which resemble sweet potato were boiled or baked in earthen ovens.  The leaves, traditionally used for domestic fiber products, are also considered to have medicinal (anti-inflammatory) properties.

TROPICAL ALMOND (Terminalia catappa) [Combretaceae] is a deciduous tree native to Southeast Asia and widely cultivated throughout India and Burma.  Commonly found in warmer coastal regions, it is tolerant of saline soils, flooding, and sea spray.  The tree produces a sweet fruit and edible kernel, and is often grown for shade and timber harvesting;
the bark, leaf, and fruit, which contain useful tannins, can also be utilized as fodder and silkworm feed.  A related species, known as white marudah (Terminalia arjuna), has long been a important component of Ayurvedic medicine and is now being used in agro-forestry projects in India. 

WATER CHESTNUT (Trapa natans) [Trapaceae] refers to the seeds of an aquatic herb, with a rosette of leaves that float on the surface (forming a thick mat) and long fine roots that anchor in the soft mud of ponds, lakes, and slow moving waters.  It is considered a hydro-halophyte that can tolerate brackish to moderately saline conditions.  The seeds or fruit are cultivated for food throughout Asia,
often eaten fresh as a crisp, refreshing snack and considered superior in taste and texture to the less invasive Chinese water chestnut.  Trapa bispinosa is a closely related species that is commonly found and harvested in the shallow ponds and lakes of north India.  (weedy tendencies)

WHITE CROSSBERRY (Grewia tenax) [Tilaceae] is a deciduous shrub/tree widespread in semi-arid tropical regions.  Wild varieties are harvested for their fruit and the growing demand in local markets provides supplemental income for small farmers in the Sudan where it is considered as a good candidate for domestication.  In India and Africa, the iron-rich fruit is consumed raw or made into a refreshing drink or porridge, the leaves are boiled and eaten as a green vegetable, and the edible seeds are an excellent source of unsaturated oils (80%).  A related species, G. flava, produces large quantities of fruits with more flesh which can also be mashed, soaked, and eaten as gruel.

WHITE MULBERRY (Morus alba) [Moraceae] is a hardy fast-growing tree that tolerates salt, drought, and environmental pollution: it is most often used for food, shade and windbreaks, landscaping, and silkworm production.  The fruits are eaten fresh, made into sweets or wine while the inner bark can be roasted and ground into flour for bread or soups.  The mulberry tree is used extensively in agro-forestry projects in the deserts of China, interplanted with other salt-tolerant trees and crops.  Cultivars selected for their foliage are currently being assessed for their potential use in large-scale sericulture in the Sudano-Sahelian regions of West Africa.

WILD TOMATOES (Lycopersicon cheesmanii, L. peruvianum, L. minor and L. pennellii) [Solanaceae], native to the Galapagos Islands, Peru, and Chile, still hold tremendous promise for the development of hybrids and transgenic tomato varieties with improved salt-tolerance (perhaps as high as 18 dS/m).  Many of our tomato cultivars originated in the Andean Highlands where a number of wild species remain as a source of valuable salt-tolerant germplasm.  Species from the closely related Solanum genus, including S. ellipticum, S. incanum, S. kurzianum and S. centrale, also have desirable genetic traits that may prove useful in conventional and transgenic breeding programs.

YEHEB (Cordeauxia edulis) [Fabaceae] is a deep-rooting evergreen shrub native to the arid and semi-arid regions of Somalia.  The tasty seeds (similar to chestnut) have been used as a high-energy food source by nomadic peoples: eaten fresh, dried, roasted or boiled.  In addition, seed by-products are used for soap making and insoluble dyes.  The foliage provides abundant feed for camels and goats yet cannot endure heavy grazing.  Properly managed plantations are considered to have significant economic potential, generating income from seed production for local food markets and as an export crop.  Domesticated only recently, experimental breeding orchards have been planted in the US, the Middle East, and Africa.

Fodder, Forage & Green Manure

ACACIA (Acacia spp.) [Mimosaceae, Caesalpiniaceae, and Fabaceae] are deep-rooting shrubs/trees widespread in the desert regions of Africa and the Middle East.  The high protein leaves and pods of A. tortilis, A. mellifera, A. nilotica, and A. senegal are considered highly palatable and used extensively for forage and fodder in India and Africa.  In the semi-arid regions of Australia, A. saligna, A. ampliceps, and A. aneura are the most predominant species cultivated primarily for their supplemental grazing qualities.

ALFALFA/LUCERNE (Medicago sativa) [Fabaceae] is a deep-rooting legume native to West Asia and Mediterranean, well adapted to a wide range of soils and climates.  It has been proven effective in lowering water tables, and high yielding cultivars (Salado) have enhanced disease resistance and are best suited to moderately saline lands (up to 12 dS/m).  With the potential for a year round crop (grazing and hay production) in Australia, lucerne is often planted along with puccinellia for controlling groundwater recharge and waterlogging.

BERMUDA GRASS (Cynodon dactylon) [Poaceae], native to Africa, is well known for its ability to withstand hot and dry conditions as well as salinity up to 15 dS/m.  It is considered an excellent forage grass or cut hay that can be irrigated with saline water; it is commonly used as a cover crop for pasturelands and lawns in warm temperate regions.  Available cultivars are being utilized for turf, erosion control, and winter feed in the Middle East.  In addition, it has long been a source of valuable herbal medicine in India used to treat eye disorders.  (weedy tendencies)

BERSEEM CLOVER (Trifolium alexandrinum) [Fabaceae] has been a historically important annual legume used as groundcover or field crops throughout the Mediterranean and Middle East.  A fast-growing winter crop, it performs well during the summer months in more temperate climates.  Recent cultivars developed in the US have improved cold-tolerance and overall winter hardiness.  In addition to being a nutritious and palatable animal feed, many Trifolium species are used as green manure (a superior nitrogen soil amendment).  Strawberry clover (T. fragiferum) is grown for pasture on saline and waterlogged soils in the northwestern US; in the Mediterranean, T. maritimum is planted as grazing pastures for goat and sheep, and can tolerate salinity levels up to 25 dS/m.

BIRDSFOOT TREFOIL (Lotus corniculatus) [Fabaceae] has deep tap roots and a dense shrub formation which makes it ideal for roadside landscaping and erosion control.  Native to temperate Eurasia, it grows on poor quality and salt-affected soils (up to 17 dS/m) where alfalfa will not.  Adapted to cooler climates, it is an important forage legume used in rotational grazing systems as well as for permanent pasture on seriously degraded lands.  It is currently being considered as a source of germplasm for the development of salt-tolerant transgenic varieties.

BUFFELGRASS (Cenchrus ciliaris) [Poaceae] is a drought-tolerant forage grass species indigenous to the Middle East, with nutritive qualities similar to that of exotics like alfalfa and rhodes grass.  In UAE field trails, buffel grass performed better under moderate salinity with higher dry matter yields and significantly greater water use efficiency.  Other salt-tolerant native grasses of the Middle East included in the study were dukhna (Coelachyrum piercei), thimam (Panicum turgidum), and dhaii (Lasiurus scindicus).  (weedy tendencies)

CHANNEL MILLET (Echinochloa turneriana) [Poaceae] is native to Australia and could prove to be a versatile fodder/forage crop in regions with limited rainfall.  This wild species, once germinated by flooding fields, can grow and yield high quality grain without any subsequent irrigation.  The seeds, culms, and leaves provide for a significant source of nutritious and palatable fodder which is often used as a cattle-finishing grass in Australia.  The fast-growing Japanese millet E. frumentacea is cultivated for food in India and barnyard grass E. crus-galli is currently being planted on salt-affected lands in Egypt.

CORD GRASS (Spartina spp.) [Poaceae] is a genus of deep-rooting, long-leaved grasses found in the tidal marshes and mudflats of the US, Europe, and Africa.  It is easily propagated by spreading rhizomes and its hollow stem allows it to tolerate flooding and waterlogging.  Optimum growth has been observed in saline waters between 10,000-20,000 ppm though some populations can withstand full-strength seawater with minimal impact on growth.  Smooth cord grass (S. alterniflora) is a prolific seed producer found growing near the water line: studies have demonstrated the feasibility of using S. alterniflora for erosion control, the restoration of estuarine habitats, and the creation of man-made marshes.  Saltmeadow cord grass (S. patens), prevalent on sand dunes and in high-tide zones, has traditionally been used for livestock grazing in dry pastures or cut for hay in wet areas.  Other potentially useful Spartina species include S. longiscapa, S. maritima, S. schreberi, and S. townsendii.  (weedy tendencies)

DHAINCHA (Sesbania bispinosa) [Fabaceae] is cultivated extensively as an annual legume
in India and China where it is the preferred green manure crop for rice paddies.  African species such as S. rostrata can significantly increase soil fertility whereas newly introduced Indian varieties have increased nitrogen-fixing capacity with nodules on both the root and stem.  Most dhaincha varieties perform well under moderately saline and waterlogged conditions.  Long term field studies on S. acaleata rotated with wheat and rice show a marked decrease in the need for chemical fertilizers, and highlight their potential usefulness in rehabilitating saline wastelands and marginal fields.  The Sesbania species are primarily composed of fast-growing shrubs or small trees that have been traditionally cultivated for their durable fiber, fuelwood, fodder, green manure, and pharmaceutical-grade gum (extracted from the seed).  In addition, the leaves can be browsed and the seeds can be ground into meal for animal feed.  (weedy tendencies)

GOLDEN SAMPHIRE (Inula crithmoides) [Compositae] is an iodine-rich herb commonly found in the salt marshes and coastal regions of
Europe.  When evaluated for use in biosaline agriculture, its germination and growth were relatively unrestricted in salinity regimes under 20 dS/m, with some populations withstanding up to 56 dS/m.  Throughout Europe, the flower buds were pickled and sometimes mixed with Salicornia; in Lebanon, the young succulent leaves are eaten raw in salads, cooked or used as a potherb.  With good protein content (13%), it has good potential as a quality animal feed supplement.  Other species of so-called samphire community include Halosarcia doleiformis, H. lepidosperma, and H. pergranulata, which occur in the waterlogged saltlands of Western Australia (H. indica) was eaten by settlers on the east coast.  When used as fodder, many of these succulents must be processed or leached in order to compensate for high levels of salt in their tissue.

HEDYSARUM (Hedysarum carnosum, H. coronarium, and H. flexuosum) [Fabaceae] is a genus of annual or short-lived perennial forage legumes that grow well on alkaline, calcareous soils.  It is native to North Africa and the Mediterranean where it is widely utilized as a nutritious fodder and cut hay.  With a deep tap root and excellent nitrogen-fixing characteristics, it can produce up to 10 tons/ha (Italy) and 18 tons/ha (New Zealand) of biomass per year.  Hedysarum species are generally considered xero-halophytes, and some populations can tolerate salinity levels up to 20 dS/m.  Cultivars released in Australia and New Zealand, selected for their biomass yields and seed quality, show great promise as a mild temperate zone forage on salt-affected crop lands.

KALLAR GRASS (Leptochloa fusca) [Poaceae] is a resilient deep-rooting grass cultivated as a summer fodder crop in Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia.  It is generally tolerant up to 10 dS/m and can withstand salinity of 22 dS/m with an associated 50% reduction in yield.  Kallar grass, which performs well in sodic and waterlogged soil conditions, has been used in the reclamation of highly degraded lands.  With up to five cuttings, it can yield 40 tons/ha of nutritious and palatable fodder per year; it is considered a water hungry grass and plantings are not feasible in dry areas where water is scarce.

KIKUYU GRASS (Pennisetum clandestinum) [Poaceace], well adapted to Mediterranean-type climates, is an aggressive spreading grass that is tolerant of wide variability in temperature, moisture, and soil quality (salt-tolerant up to 8 dS/m).  Kikuyu grass is used throughout the world for erosion protection and pasturelands, lawns and landscaping, and recreational turfs.  (weedy tendencies).

KOCHIA (Kochia scoparia) [Chenopodiaceae] is a shrub traditionally cultivated on alkaline soils for high quality forage and fodder in Central Asia.  It was introduced to the US in the early 1900’s as a highly adaptable drought-resistant alternative to alfalfa, and varieties selected from wild germplasm are now commercially available (South Dakota).  The leaves are high in protein (11-22%) and sufficiently palatable to livestock however oxalate toxicity can occur if it is the predominate source of feed.   K. prostrata is the most common species in Central Asia and can tolerate up to 17 dS/m without any yield decline.  K. indica and K. scoparia are being field tested for their forage quality and potential for leaf protein concentrates in the
Middle East.  Related species, such as Kochia brevifolia syn. Maireana brevifolia, M. sediflolia, M. oppositifolia, M. platycarpa, and M. pyramidata, are small woody shrubs with succulent leaves: commonly known as bluebush, these species were planted in Western Australia for their high palatability and continuous grazing potential until becoming invasive.  (weedy tendencies)

PUCCINELLIA (Puccinellia spp.) [Poaceace] is a promising genus of halophytic grasses, of which most species are able tolerate moderate to extreme levels of salinity.  Native to the Middle East, Puccinellia ciliata is a productive winter grass for salt-affected (up to 16 dS/m) and waterlogged soils, and has been planted as a companion species to tall wheatgrass in Australia.  The Puccinellia species are best as forage, a high quality feed that can withstand heavy grazing once established.  P. maritima is found throughout the salt marshes and estuarine shores of Europe and North America, demonstrating optimum yields under brackish or slightly saline conditions.  P. festuciformis, another hydro-halophyte occurring in Europe, can tolerate salinity in excess of seawater concentrations without any significant decline.

RHODES GRASS (Chloris gayana) [Poaceace] is a turf-forming grass native to South Africa and more recently grown for fodder in the Middle East.  It is a popular grass due to its ease in establishment, palatability, and suitability as cut hay as well as its potential for multiple harvests.  Seeds require freshwater for germination and initial growth; once established on well-drained sandy soils, rhodes grass can be irrigated with saline water up to 8 dS/m.  It is slowly being replaced in the Middle East by native grasses with higher nutritional values, greater salt-tolerance, and better water use efficiency.

RUSSIAN THISTLE (Salsola kali) [Chenopodiaceae] is a salt- and drought-tolerant annual herb of the Old World salt marshes and seacoasts that was traditionally burned to produce soda ash, soap, and glass.  The young bushy plants (with xero-halophytic qualities) are used as forage/fodder,
with good protein content (11-22%) and amino acid composition, requiring less than half the water used for traditional groundcovers.  With potential biomass yields of 10 tons/ha, it is now being considered as a desert fuel crop which when dry can be pressed into logs.  A number of other Salsola species also have potential economic uses, specififcally S. soda, a hydro-halophyte that tolerates seawater irrigation and can be eaten as a green vegetable or used in soap making.

SALTBUSH ( spp.) [Chenopodiaceae] refers to a genus of evergreen shrubs used for forage in arid and semi-arid regions which often require low salinity and high A. canescens tend to be the most palatable, prolific, and salt-tolerant, A. nummularia and A. amnicola are known for their extreme drought-resistant.  Most Atriplex average between 12-22% leaf protein content, regenerate well after grazing, and can survive at salinity levels up to 30-35 dS/m with minimal yearly rainfall.  A. barclayana, easily propagated from cuttings, can be irrigated with seawater and is known for its high biomass production.  A. undulata is currently being cultivated and harvested by large-scale commercial fodder operations in Australia.  Many Atriplex species (over 400) perform well under saline conditions and provide for an excellent forage compliment when interplanted with native vegetation.

SALTGRASS (Distichlis spicata and D. spicata var. stricta) [Poaceace], native to the Americas, is currently being cultivated as forage on salt-affected lands with distinct ecotypes for coastal and inland regions: maximum salinity tolerance ranges from 15,000 ppm to full-strength seawater depending on the population.  Mexico has undertaken the large-scale adaptation of saltgrass cultivation for livestock forage and aquaculture food.  Recent cultivars (NyPa Forage) have demonstrated yields of 20 tons/ha when irrigated with saline water in hot arid and semi-arid regions.  Other cultivars of D. spicata (NyPa Turf and NyPa Reclamation) are being used for landscaping, lawns, and recreational turfs as well as the phytoremediation of degraded and contaminated soils.  (weedy tendencies)

SEASHORE DROPSEED (Sporobolus cryptandrus and S. virginicus) [Poaceace] are prolific drought-tolerant grasses which provide fair to good forage for livestock in the arid and semi-arid regions.  S. cryptandrus is most common in the Americas (where it is often used as a turf grass) while in the Middle East, S. virginicus is being considered as a more salt-tolerant and water efficient substitute for exotic grasses and other traditional forage crops.  Demonstration projects in the UAE indicate normal growth when irrigated with saline water up to 20,000 ppm with comparable yields, nutritive values, and a relatively low ash content (a measure of salt accumulation in plant tissue).  In addition, a number of Sporobolus species including S. arabicus, S. rigens, S. secundatum, S. tremilus, and S. ioclados are being cultivated for fodder, and used for the rehabilitation of degraded pasturelands and soil stabilization in salt-affected deserts, primarily in
Africa and the Middle East.

SEASHORE PASPALUM (Paspalum vaginatum) [Poaceace] is a deep-rooting grass found in tidal marshes and on the sandy coasts of the tropics.  It is drought-tolerant and, with proper management, can be irrigated with seawater and contaminated wastewater (effluent).  Although it makes for poor hay, running roots and a dense clumping formation provides for good forage as well as the revegetation of pastures on waterlogged lands in Australia.  Recent cultivars are being used for recreational turf and lawns in areas where freshwater is scarce; a number of golf courses and sports fields in the US and Mexico have adopted its use on fairways and greens.  A related species, known as knotgrass (P. distichum), may also have potential commercial value as forage and a recreational turf grass.
TALL WHEATGRASS (Thinopyrum elongatum syn. Agropyron elongatum) [Poaceae] is a dense, clumping grass adapted to wet saline lands in the Mediterranean and Central Asia.  Along with A. acutum and A. pycanathum, it is cultivated throughout the world as a palatable grazing crop high in protein.  It is now found in the salt marshes and seashores of
Australia and the Americas, tolerating up to 34 dS/m and performing best when sub-soil water is available.  New high yielding wheatgrass and wildrye hybrids (Elymus triticoides x Elymus cinereus) have performed well on salt-affected lands with little soil moisture (USDA Agricultural Research Service in Logan, Utah).  Similar pasture grasses with slightly lower salt-tolerance thresholds (up to 10 dS/m) include crested wheatgrass (Agropyron cristatum) and altai wildrye (Elymus angustus).

WIDGEON GRASS (Ruppia maritima) [Ruppiaceae] is a submersed marine grass which provides food for migrating waterfowl and has been used in closed aquaculture systems as feed for shrimp.  A close relative, tassel weed (R. spiralis), can be eaten as a cooked vegetable and the fatty seeds used as oil in cooking.

WINTERFAT (Krascheninnikovia lanata syn. Ceratoides lanata) [Chenopodiaceae], native to the western US and
Canada, is a small dense shrub well known for its salt-tolerance (generally 16 dS/m with some ecotypes withstanding up to 27 dS/m).  Its primary economic uses are as good quality forage for livestock during the winter (thus its name).  With a long taproot, it is extremely water efficient and can be used for revegetating dry wastelands in the cold temperate zones.  Greasewood (Sarcobatus vermiculatus) is another hardy halophyte found in similar habitats that has good potential for forage and fuelwood.

Agro-Forestry & Conservation

ACACIA (Acacia spp.) [Mimosaceae] is a multipurpose shrub/tree used for timber, pulp, fuel, shelterbelts (alley cropping), soil conservation, and rehabilitation with more than 800 species in Australia alone.  Some of the most popular Acacia species used for agro-forestry and conservation purposes include A. baileyana, A. senegal, A. mangium, A. nilotica, A. aulococarpa and A. tortilis while A. longifolia, A. saligna and A. sophorae are being utilized specifically for sand dune stabilization in North Africa and the Middle East.  A. crassicarpa and A. auriculiformis are commonly employed in the large-scale fuelwood plantations of Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

CASUARINA (Casuarina equisetifolia) [Casuarinaceae] is a fast-growing evergreen, native to Asia and Australia, which has been used extensively for fuel in India and dune stabilization in China.  It has been successfully introduced to the coastal regions of
Africa due its ability to grow under the harshest and most degraded conditions.  Most Casuarina species are cultivated for their timber, pulp, fuel, and green manure as well as soil conservation on eroded hillsides and sloping lands.  C. cristata, C. glauca and C. obesa exhibit the greatest salt-tolerance (up to 56 dS/m) in field studies while C. obesa, cultivated mainly for fuel and coastal windbreaks, performed best in warm humid zones under waterlogged conditions.  Some related Allocasuarina species are equally salt-tolerant and can be used for similar purposes including canopy cover for commercial crops and water efficient landscaping.

EUCALYPTUS (Eucalyptus spp.) [Myrtaceae] is an evergreen prevalent throughout most of Australia, with only a few species exhibiting high salt-tolerance.  It is most often used for timber, fuel, paper and particle board as well as landscaping, sand dune stabilization and other conservation purposes.  E. occidentalis, E. sargentii, E. spathulata, E. loxophleba and E. kondininensis are generally able to tolerate salinity between 10-20 dS/m while some populations, observed growing in salt encrusted lands, can withstand up to 30 dS/m.  An excellent source of firewood, timber and essential oil, E. camaldulensis has been proven effective in reducing saline water tables and drainage.  An Australian hybrid, from the cross pollination of E. camaldulensis and E. globulus, is particularly hardy and salt-tolerant while maintaining good pulp yields for paper production.  Recent cultivars have been developed with improved heat-tolerance for the arid regions of the Middle East.

KARANJA (Pongamia pinnata and P. glabra) [Fabaceae] is a nitrogen-fixing tree commonly found along rivers and in the coastal forests of India where many plantations are now being managed for fuelwood production (harvested in 30 year rotations).  The oil from the seed (27-39%) is used in a variety of pharmaceutical and industrial products such as agricultural pesticides and antibacterial soaps (effective in treating skin diseases).  The residual nitrogen-rich meal, used for green manure and pest management, is often combined with neem cake resulting in significant yield increases of fruit trees.  The oil’s potential application as biofuel is now being investigated by Indian scientists.  A related species with similar uses, P. velutina is found in
Papua New Guinea.

KASSOD TREE (Cassia siamea) [Fabaceae] is a multi-purpose leguminous tree frequently used in commercial agro-forestry projects in Southeast Asia that include alley cropping, shelterbelts, canopy/shade for cash crops, timber, and building materials; the leaves can also be browsed by livestock.

LEUCAENA (Leucaena leucocephala) [Fabaceae] is a salt- and drought-tolerant leguminous shrub/tree native to the wastelands of South and Central America, now being cultivated throughout the world for a number of purposes.  The palatable and nutritious young leaves/pods are browsed by livestock.  Because of its nitrogen-fixing characteristics, Leucaena holds the greatest promise for green manure, organic mulch, and shelterbelts in alley (hedgerow) cropping systems, particularly in Africa.  In Pakistan, Leucaena has been established on coastal sands irrigated with saline water measuring 14 dS/m.  Its demonstrated ability to leach selenium from the soil also makes it a potential candidate for phytoremediation projects.  (weedy tendencies)

MANGROVES (Rhizophora and Avicennia spp.) [Rhizophoraceae] are hydro-halophytes native to coastal, estuarine, and riparian environments throughout the tropics: from low, sprawling shrubs to tall canopy trees.  Most mangrove species can tolerate full-strength seawater.  However, for optimum growth, certain Rhizophora species require freshwater incursions that reduce salt concentrations while Avicennia marina, perhaps the most widely cultivated, depends on relatively higher levels of salinity for maximum biomass production.  The primary commercial uses of the Rhizophora species are for fuelwood, charcoal, and timber in addition to habitat conservation by stabilizing coastal soils and protecting inland areas from storm damage, seawater incursions, and nutrient cycle imbalances.  In Southeast Asia, R. mucronata is being managed and harvested for fuel and timber in 20-30 year production cycles; whereas in the Americas, R. mangle is often used for conservation and coastal protection.  Of the more salt-tolerant Avicennia species, A. germinans, A. marina, and A. officinalis, found in coastal salt marshes and tidal swamps, hold the greatest potential for large-scale plantations in the Middle East, North Africa, and the Americas.  The looking-glass mangrove (Heritiera littoralia), found in the Old World tropics, is one of the largest mangrove trees cultivated predominantly for charcoal, fuelwood, and timber.  Other mangroves species that tolerate seawater and can be utilized for similar purposes include Kandelia candel, Laguncularia racemosa, Conocarpus erectus, Pemphis acidula and those of the Brownlowia, Lumnitzera, Aegialitis, Brugguiera, Sonneratia, and Xylocarpus genera.

MESQUITE (Prosopis spp.) [Fabaceae] is a thorny deciduous shrub/tree found in the arid and semi-arid lands of the Americas.  Cultivated varieties of this drought-resistant nitrogen-fixing tree are primarily used for fuelwood/charcoal (providing for an excellent source of efficient, slow-burning energy) and timber products.  The pods, a traditional food source for the Native Americans, are easily harvested and ground into flour, cooked as gruel, fermented into wine or used a coffee substitute; the fruits and leaves can be fed to livestock.  P. juliflora is perhaps the most versatile species, growing in saline waterlogged conditions in India and Pakistan.  Other species such as P. tamarugo, P. chilensis, and P. alba are being planted on salt-encrusted lands in the Americas.  Due to its abundant fodder and hard wood production, P. tamarugo is being used in the pampas of South America to transform desert lands into economically productive agro-ecosystems.

RUSSIAN OLIVE (Elaeagnus angustifolia) [Elaeagnaceae] is a hardy deciduous shrub/tree found in the colder temperate and steppe habitats from Europe to the Himalayas.  This drought- and moderately salt-tolerant tree is well established in parts of the US and Canada, most commonly used for fuel and timber, shade and windbreaks, erosion control and hedges, and wildlife conservation.  The fruit is considered edible.  A close relative with similar characteristics, silver buffaloberry (Shepherdia argentea) tolerates salinities up to 16 dS/m.  (weedy tendencies)

SALT CEDAR (Tamarix spp.) [Tamaricaceae] is deep-rooting deciduous shrub/tree that is easily propagated from cuttings.  Over 50 these salt-tolerant species found on sea coasts and inland deserts throughout the world show considerable promise for shelterbelts, hedgerows, and erosion control as well as the rehabilitation of saline wastelands (reducing water tables) and sand dune stabilization.  T. ramosissima syn. T. chinensis, which tolerates salinity levels up to 20-25 dS/m, is being used extensively in northwestern China to stop desert expansion and increase agricultural productivity with direct economic benefits from much-needed timber and fuel in these low-vegetative environments.  Field tests suggest that some of the more productive species (T. aphylla and T. nilotica) can be irrigated with seawater.  T. stricta, native to the Middle East, has the desirable qualities of rapid growth and uniform branching with the formation of dense canopies.  (weedy tendencies)

SALT TREE (Halimodendron halodendron syn. H. argenteum) [Fabaceae] is a deciduous shrub found in the saline steppes from Europe to West Asia, now being used as shelterbelts in Canada.  With the same common name, Haloxylon persicum is a similar hardy shrub native to the temperate deserts and steppes of Central Asia which has exhibited good potential for fuelwood, timber, and soil stabilization.

SEA HIBISCUS (Hibiscus tiliaceus) [Malvaceae] is a fast-growing shrub/tree commonly found in mangroves and coastal regions of
Asia and the Pacific.  The bark is a source of high quality fiber for rope and domestic products while the sturdy lightweight timber is used for fuelwood, boat construction, and farming implements.  Generally considered a famine food, the young leaves (medicinal properties) and flowers can be eaten by both animals and humans.  Sea hibiscus also has potential for landscaping as a flowery ornamental.

SIRIS (Albizia lebbeck) [Fabaceae] is a leguminous tree, originating in India, that thrives in well-drained saline soils and is considered highly tolerant of sea spray.  These highly-productive drought-resistant trees are primarily cultivated in silvopastoral systems for their fuelwood, timber, and green manure in monsoonal climatic zones.  The leaves (20% crude protein), twigs, and pods provide an excellent supplemental feed source for livestock during the dry season.  Another closely related species, red siris (A. procera), is being investigated as a high quality timber in Australia with similar feed values.

TEA TREE (Melaleuca halmaturorum) [Myrtaceae] is a source of oil prized for its powerful antiseptic qualities and multiple agricultural uses.  Native to Australia, it is now found growing on poor quality saline lands and on higher ground just beyond mangrove swamps throughout the world.  The deep-rooting M. quinquenervia is perhaps the most promising source of renewable fuel with its robust germination and regeneration characteristics.  M. styphelioides is the most salt-tolerant and fast-growing species that can thrive under the harshest of environmental conditions.  M. cymbifolia and M. thyoides found in and around the saltflats of Western Australia show the greatest tolerance for waterlogging.

TULIP TREE (Thespesia populnea) [Malvaceae] is a hydro-halophytic shrub/tree that grows in coastal regions, commonly found on the edge of mangrove swamps where it tolerates full-strength seawater.  The fruits, flowers, and young leaves are considered edible however its primary utilization is for durable timber, construction materials, ornamental purposes, and as a shade tree for commercial crops.  Other related species, such as T. acutiloba and T. lampas, are cultivated primarily for fuelwood in the Asia-Pacific region.

Medicinal, Industrial & Domestic Uses

ALEXANDRIAN LAUREL (Calophyllum inophyllum) [Clusiaceae] is an attractive evergreen tree endemic to the coastal regions of South Asia and the Pacific Islands: a hydro-halophyte that tolerates seawater concentrations.  Bark and leaf extracts are used in Ayurvedic preparations as a source of complex phenyl coumarin, known for its anti-inflammatory properties.  The oil that exudes from the dried seed, marketed as tamanu oil, has become a lucrative export commodity for the South Pacific.  The thick, dark green oil is effective in treating skin diseases and has a number of cosmetic applications with health-giving and regenerative qualities.  A related species, C. lanigerum, produces chemical compounds (such as Calonolide A) that have potential applications in controlling and treating HIV infections.

ALKALI BULRUSH (Scirpus maritimus syn. Bolboschoenus maritimus) [Cyperaceae], also known as sea club-rush, is commonly found in the intertidal marshes and saline wetlands of Europe, the Middle East, and the Americas.  For thousands of years, it is has been a source of food (seeds and rhizomes) and raw materials for household necessities such as baskets and matting.  The tubers can be eaten raw as a vegetable or, like the seeds, ground into flour for bread and soups (similar to Bolboschoenus compactus).  However, the potential commercial production of this and other rushes is primarily for paper pulp, phytoremediation, and wetland rehabilitation.  Species of related genera, such as Bolboschoenus, Cyperus, and Fimbristylis, hold similar promise for fiber, pulp, and textiles.

BALANITES (Balanites roxburghii and B. aegyptiaca) [Balanitaceae] are an evergreen shrub/tree indigenous to Africa and the Middle East, now being cultivated extensively in India and Latin America.  The fruits are edible both fresh and dried whereas the leaves, shoots, and fruit are primarily fed to livestock, particularly in the dry season.  Most importantly, the fruit, seeds, and roots are a source of sapogenins (diosgenin and yamogenin) which are used in the manufacture of steroids, oral contraceptives, and other useful hormonal compounds.

CHINESE TALLOW TREE (Sapium sebiferum) [Euphorbiaceae] is a multi-purpose tree native to China and East Asia that grows well in saline waterlogged lands.  It is primarily cultivated for its seed which yields a solid saturated fat (vegetable tallow) on the outside and unsaturated oil inside the kernel.  The tallow with its excellent burning quality has been traditionally used for fuel and machine oils, candles, soaps, detergents, and emulsifiers.  The high protein residual meal makes a good fertilizer or can be fed to livestock as a supplement.  The tree itself has potential for saline land reclamation and the phytoremediation of contaminated environments as well as landscaping, shade/canopy, and erosion control.

COMMON REED (Phragmites australis) [Poaceae] is an
Old World marsh plant cultivated primary for its pulp, fiber, and as an alternative biofuel that can yield up to 10 tons/ha.  There is great variability in salt-tolerance among populations from 15-40 dS/m.  In the Mediterranean, it is used extensively as construction materials for dwellings, thatch, fences, and other domestic necessities.  It also holds promise for water 'purification' (particulate contamination) and the remediation of wastewater treatment discharge areas.  During the summer months, common reed is grazed by livestock and the young shoots are eaten as a green vegetable whereas the starchy rhizomes are generally considered a famine food.  Other useful saltmarsh species are a bamboo-like reed, Arundo donax, native to the Mediterranean and commonly known as giant reed.

CREOSOTE BUSH (Larrea tridentata) [Zygophyllaceae] is a shrub commonly found in the deserts and saltflats of the southwestern US and Mexico.  With anti-fungal and anti-microbial properties, it has traditionally been used for medicinal purposes particularly as an anti-oxidant and immune stimulator.  In addition, it has potential for desert agriculture and industrial applications such as the manufacture of rubber and polymers.  It should be noted that its roots exude toxins that tend to inhibit the growth of surrounding vegetation.

GUAR (Cyamopsis tetragonoloba) [Fabaceae], indigenous to India, is a deep-rooting annual legume which has been introduced and cultivated throughout the world.  New cultivars in the US tend to have the highest yield and best disease-resistance.  It is moderately salt-tolerant and performs best in arid and semi-arid climates with well-drained soils.  In Asia, the pods are eaten as a vegetable while the whole plant is cultivated for fodder and green manure, used as a nitrogen-rich soil amendment in crop rotation systems.  The most economically beneficial product, refined guar gum, is used as a stabilizer in the manufacturing of ice cream and other processed foods as well as a number of industrial processes including cloth and paper production.  After the gum is extracted from the seed, the leftover meal can be pressed into feed pellets for livestock.

GUAYULE (Parthenium argentatum) [Compositae] is a small xerophytic shrub native to Mexico and the US, a promising source of natural rubber identical to that of the Brazilian rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis).  Guayule was a major source of rubber in the US and Mexico (
extracted from stem and root tissue) from the late 1800’s until the development of synthetic rubber and cheaper Asian sources in the mid 1900’s.  Unlike the rubber tree which is tapped and labor intensive, the entire guayule plant can be planted and harvested mechanically.  As the demand for natural rubber continues to increase, the development of high-yielding cultivars in the near future will undoubtedly facilitate the increased commercial exploitation of guayule.  There is wide genetic variation, particularly in salt-tolerance thresholds, among guayule populations with some tolerating salinity levels up to 10 dS/m.

GUM ARABIC (Acacia senegal) [Fabaceae] is a savanna shrub/tree found in Africa and the Middle East, now being cultivated extensively throughout India and Pakistan.  It is a hardy species with a high tolerance for poor saline soils and adverse climactic conditions such as drought and wind.  The water soluble gum, which oozes from cracks in the bark, is an important source of income harvested from both wild and cultivated species.  Most of the internationally traded gum arabic for the food processing and pharmaceutical industries comes from the Sudan.  The dried gummy exudates were used extensively in medicinally compounding (binding tablets) and oil emulsions until the advent of gelatin and other vegetable gums.  However, its superior solubility, low viscosity, and non-toxicity still make it a valuable component in food additives, pharmaceutical preparations, and industrial applications.  The hardy mastic tree (Schinos pistacia) has similar potential for gum production.

GUMWEED (Grindelia camporum) [Compositae] is a herbaceous shrub endemic to the inland saltflats of the
Americas.  Growing and flowering during the hot dry summer months, the gum plant produces aromatic resins (similar to those found in pine tar) that are used in the manufacture of wood-based industrial products such as glues, rubber, polymers, inks, and soaps.  Resins from several Grindelia species have already been patented and its future commercial potential appears to be promising as the current source (pine trees) of these resins is being quickly depleted.

JOJOBA (Simmondsia chinensis) [Simmondsiaceae], native to Mexico and the US, is a desert shrub considered only moderately salt-tolerant, generally experiencing yield declines when irrigated with saline water above 8 dS/m.  It is cultivated and harvested primarily for the distinctive oil (liquid wax) contained in the seed.  The pure and highly stable oil (resembling that of the sperm whale) is sought after in various industries as a high-temperature lubricating oil and a carrier in the formulation of natural cosmetics.

LETTUCE TREE (Pisonia alba) [Nyctaginaceae] is a large evergreen shrub of South Asia that grows on well-drained sandy soils of the coast.  The leaves are eaten as a green vegetable (raw and cooked) or used to feed livestock; they are considered to have medicinal qualities that are useful in treating rheumatism and arthritis.  It is planted throughout South India primarily as a yard plant and ornamental hedge with the added beneficial uses as an emergency food and herbal preparation.

MADAGASCAR PERIWINKLE (Catharanthus roseus) [Apocynaceae] is an evergreen herb native to Madagascar, now widely cultivated in warm coastal regions throughout the world.  It is now being grown commercially as a lucrative pharmaceutical crop in Australia, India, and Africa that can tolerate salinity up to 12 dS/m.  Alkaloids extracted from the plant are reported to have anti-cancer properties which have been effective in the treatment of high blood pressure, diabetes, malaria, and leukemia.  Ornamental and medicinal cultivars, typically grown as annuals in mild temperate zones, are now available.

MANGROVE FERN (Acrostichum aureum and A. danaeifolium) [Pteridaceae]
is a pantropical hydro-halophyte that grows in the inland mangroves, tolerates full-strength seawater, and has good potential as an ornamental.  It has traditionally been harvested for fiber used in making cordage and rope while the tender young shoots (resembling fiddleheads) are eaten raw, cooked or pickled throughout Southeast Asia.

(Azadirachta indica) [Meliaceae] is a fast-growing evergreen tree endemic to India that can withstand poor quality soils and salinity levels up to 17 dS/m.  The medicinal properties of neem contained in the leaf, bark, and seeds have been recognized and revered for thousands of years, from treating skin diseases to intestinal worms.  The young leaves are traditionally eaten fresh in the morning to strengthen the immune system.  Neem seed oil (50%), a sustainable alternative to synthetic pesticides, is highly effective in managing agricultural pests protecting crops from close to 400 of the most destructive insects and nematodes.  The oilseed cake provides for a nitrogen-rich fertilizer and insecticide suitable for organic and bio-dynamic farming.  Other uses of the neem tree include shade, shelterbelts, timber, fiber, fuel, tannin, and resins for glue.  Another Ayurvedic plant, Adhatoda vasica, has similar potential uses, particularly with regard to agricultural pest management and livestock/human health applications.

NONI (Morinda citrifolia) [Rubiaceae] is a shrub/tree native to Southeast Asia, Australia, and the Pacific which was traditionally cultivated as a dye plant.  It is now well-known as a medicinal drink and health supplement: made from the juice of the fruit, it is used to treat a number of maladies.  Noni tolerates moderately saline soils and sea spray, and thrives in brackish inland tidal pools on the Pacific Islands where it is often planted for windbreaks, shade for coffee, and support for pepper vines.  The young leaves and fresh fruit are generally considered famine food.

RUSHES (Juncus spp.) [Juncaceae] are hydro-halophytes commonly found in salt marshes, and along lake and riparian shores throughout the Middle East, North Africa, and the Americas.  The pulp and fiber is used for paper production and building materials, yielding up to 2 tons/ha under saline conditions in India.  In Egypt, Juncus rigidus has traditionally been harvested for basketry and domestic utensils.  Both J. rigidus and J. acutus are now being evaluated in the Middle East for their potential use in papermaking.  J. maritimus is perhaps the most salt-tolerant of the Juncus species withstanding salinities up to 77 dS/m.  Other salt-tolerant plants with similar pulp and fiber potential include screw pine (Pandanus tectorius) for thatch and baskets in Asia; esparto grass (Stipa tenacissima) harvested commercially in North Africa for paper and vegetable wax; southern cattail (Typha domingensis) found in the Americas has numerous household uses; kenaf (Hibiscus cannabinus) for fiber and paper products, and Urochondra setulosa, a halophytic grass found in India tolerating extreme salinity between 34-62 dS/m.

SEA BUCKTHORN (Hippophae rhamnoides) [Elaeagnaceae] is a deciduous shrub/tree that grows in coastal dunes, temperate steppes, mountain cliffs and streams from Europe to the Far East.  It is considered salt-tolerant however no detailed analysis is yet available.  Often used to reclaim marginal lands, wildlife habitats, and in the creation of agricultural shelterbelts, it forms dense thickets with some ornamental value.  Sea buckthorn has the greatest potential for medicinal use as the oil from the seed and fruit pulp has long been used in Russia for its anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and regenerative properties.  The vitamin-rich berries (known as Siberian pineapple) can be made into jam or pressed for juice while the whole plant, including extraction residues, can be utilized as a high protein animal feed with added health-giving qualities.  In the Canadian prairies, several new cultivars have recently been developed for fruit, oil, and fodder production as well as agricultural windbreaks and hedgerows.

SHEA (Vitellaria paradoxa and V. nilotica) [Sapotaceae] is an underexploited oil-producing tree of the Sahel and an important source of vegetable fats.  Shea butter is now widely used in natural cosmetics and confectionary generating significant export earnings and attractive incomes for small-scale producers in West and Central Africa.  Technological advances in pressing the nut and processing the oil have made its production even more lucrative.  Shea butter has traditionally been used in cooking, soap making, and as a sealant for wood and ceramics.  The residual meal has potential as both human food and animal feed; the sweet fruit surrounding the nut is consumed during times of drought while the timber is harvested for fuelwood, charcoal, and domestic utensils.  The husks have proven effective as an organic fertilizer/mulch and in the removal of heavy metals from wastewater.

TOOTHBRUSH TREE (Salvadora persica and S. angustifolia) [Salvadoraceae] is a small evergreen well adapted to arid, saline conditions in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.  Traditionally, the fruits were eaten raw, branches used as toothbrushes, and leaves chewed for oral hygiene.  The oil-rich (40%) seeds can be used for soap, candles, and other domestic purposes; a salve made from the roots is effective in mitigating body pains.  The palatable leaves are often browsed by camels, sheep, and goats in the dry season.  A related tree, Salvadora oleoides found in the deserts of Rajasthan, has considerable potential for biomass production on denuded arid lands.

Online Databases & Plant Listings


Halophyte Database - Salt-Tolerant Plants & Their Uses
A full description of 1,883 halophytic species searchable by family/genus/species

Haloph: A Data Base of Salt Tolerant Plants of the World
1,560 species with their maximum reported salinity tolerance and economic uses
available from the Arid Lands Information Center at the University of Arizona

Plants Tolerant of Arid, or Semi-Arid, Conditions with Non-Food Constituents of Potential Use
Tropical Products Institute, Overseas Development Administration

Salt Tolerance and Crop Potential of Halophytes
Edward P. Glenn and J. Jed Brown in Critical Reviews in Plant Sciences

Salt Tolerant Plants 90: List of Mangroves, Halophytes and Salt-Tolerant Plants
Boeer, Benno and Alfred Stille: University of Osnabrueck, Germany

Halophyte Listing ~ Plant Physiology, Department of Biology, University of Osnabrueck
A descriptive listing with a focus on salt-tolerant plants for landscaping and conservation


Purdue University Center for New Crops & Plant Products

Eden Sustainability Sourcebook (formerly the Permaculture Plant Database)

HortiPlex Database  (GardenWeb)

A Checklist of Names for 3,000 Vascular Plants of Economic Importance  (GRIN Taxonomy)

Plants Database of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

Arab Network of Man and Biosphere Program (MAB)

Australian New Crops ~ Listing of Useful Plants of the World


Plants for a Future ~ A Resource Center for Edible and Other Useful Plants

Neglected Crops: 1492 from a Different Perspective (FAO Plant Production and Protection Series)

Sturtevants Edible Plants of the World (The Southwest School of Botanical Medicine)

Selected Edible Plants of the Sonoran Desert

The Famine Foods Database


Trees for Life Species Lists (Searchable Database)

Agroforestree Database (World Agroforestry Centre)

A List of Tree Species (Seed Tree)

Index of Tree Species (UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Center)

Seed Leaflets (Danida Forest Seed Center)

Fact Sheets on Multi-Purpose Trees (Winrock International)

Register of Australian Herbage Plant Cultivars (Grasses and Legumes)


Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Databases (USDA Agricultural Research Service)

A Database of Foods, Drugs, Dyes and Fibers of Native American Peoples, Derived from Plants (University of Michigan, Dearborn)

Medicinal Plants of the Southwest (New Mexico State University)

Desert Tropicals Plant Listing


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