bower spinach (Tetragonia implexicoma)
This trailing plant with its succulent leaves and orange-red berries was a significant source of food for Tasmanian Aboriginal people. The berries, which darken to near-black when ripe and were valued as a red dye, were a sweet tasting snack or addition to a main meal.
The leaves were highly valued as food by both Aboriginal people and by early Europeans who found them a valuable counter to scurvy. As its common name indicates, it has a similar flavour and texture to spinach.
Specimens collected by botanists, including Joseph Banks, found their way into European gardens. In France, bower spinach became so widely it was thought to be native.
Shelter for skinks and invertebrate animals, food for birds, a natural shelter for little penguins and a pioneer plant in dry disturbed sites, where it readily and quickly spreads.
(Photos: Fiona Rice and DPIPWE)
STUDENT INQUIRY QUESTION
Bower spinach leaves taste salty. If you look closely, you can see the tiny salt crystals on its leaves.Why would a plant have salty leaves?