Plant notes: Tagasaste
There are bushy shrubs that grow along the foreshore close to where we live in SE Tasmania. In winter they break out in clusters of creamy-white flowers that attract bees by the horde.
We have seen the plant over on mainland Australia too, the first time as some large specimens at the Penrose Rural Co-op, a multiple occupancy community on NSW’s Southern Highlands.
The plant is tagasaste, its alternative common name of ‘tree lucerne’ hinting as the purpose of its introduction to Australia as a forage crop on farms. It is now found as a spontaneous plant elsewhere.
Useful the plant might be in feeding farm animals, it is not liked all that much by ecological restorationists because of its tendency to establish and spread.
Interesting, I thought as I looked at the poster on the community noticeboard advertising tagasaste for sale. Anyone in the know could walk along the foreshore track when winter ends and collect all the seed they could ever need from the tagasaste that grows wild there, where it stabilises the erosive sandy soils.
Tagasaste. Tree lucerne.
Fabaceae. The legume family that fix the plant nutrient nitrogen in the soil to make it available to plants.
Centre of diversity
Dry, sandy soils.
Spreading evergreen shrub or tree that grows 3–4m.
- the leaf is made up of three greyish-green equal-sized leaflets
- flat, green seed pods become black when ripe
- creamy-white flowers form in small clusters in the leaf axils during June to October in Australia
- seeds are tiny and shiny black.
- fodder for farm ruminants; high protein content
- slash and use as a mulch on gardens to make nitrogen available to crops
- slash foliage to add to compost
- bee forage.
- leaves for fodder
- flowers for bee forage
- foliage for mulching, adding to compost.
- from seed
- suited to sandy, well-drained soils of pH range 4–7.
Tagasaste is regarded as a weed in some places because of its self-seeding spread.
- deep rooted; in dry soils in summer, tagasaste uses a ‘hydraulic lift’ function to raise deeper-lying moisture via the deep roots and circulate it through the finer feeder roots to extract minerals and release moisture into the soil — similar to banksia.
PHOTOS: Russ Grayson www.pacific-edge.info
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