Animal feed resources information system

Salsola (Salsola glabrescens)

IMPORTANT INFORMATION: This datasheet is pending revision and updating; its contents are currently derived from FAO's Animal Feed Resources Information System (1991-2002) and from Bo Göhl's Tropical Feeds (1976-1982).


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Common names 

Salsola, rivierganna, brakbos; brakbossi; brakganna, gewoneganna, grootganna, kortbeenganna, regterooiganna, rooibeenganna, rooilootrivierganna, Rroibeenrivierganna [Afrikaaner]


Caroxylon glabrescens (Burtt Davy) Akhani & Roalson, Int. J. Pl. Sci. 168 (6): 947 (2007).

Related feed(s) 

Salsola glabrescens is an indigenous shrub of South Africa where it is known as "Rivierganna". It is a source a valuable source of fodder that can grow in drier areas. It is relished by sheep and goats (Vorster, 1986; Hobson et al., 1975; Henrici, 1945 cited by Wilcock, 2009).


Salsola glabrescens is a variable shrub growing to 1-1.5 m in height and 1.5 m in diameter. It has scattered woody branches bearing leafy shoots and buds. Young shoots are hairless and red in colour which is specific to Salsola glabrescens (Le Roux et al., 1994). The shoots are very fine and glaucous (Ludlow, 1950).The leaves are alternate,oblong, often pointed in shape, bluish-green in colour, sessile, and densely packed on the shoots. The flowers are borne on scattered spikes, grouped in panicles on the shoots (Le Roux et al., 1994). The fruits are spherical and have a crown of translucent wings (Wilcock, 2009).


Salsola glabrescens is a palatable species readily browsed by sheep and goats (Henrici, 1945; Hobson et al., 1975; Vorster, 1986; Klopper, 2000).


Salsola glabrescens, commonly known as “Rivierganna”, is indigenous to South Africa. It occurs in conspicuous stands in depressions, riparian rangelands and, in some cases, on plains, hence the name "Rivierganna" (Le Roux et al., 1994; Ludlow, 1950). Salsola is typical of Nama Karoo, an important ecosystem for agriculture and more particularly for small ruminants (Klopper, 2000).

Salsola glabrescens is a drought tolerant species (Klopper, 2000; Vorster, 1986; Hobson et al., 1975) that is often the only green remaining species in times of drought (Le Roux et al., 1994 cited by Wilcock, 2009).

Environmental impact 

Veld reclamation

In the arid rangeland situated in the transition area between succulent and nama karoo, salsola, as a drought tolerant species, was listed among other native species as a candidate for rehabilitation. It was recommended to protect the plant from herbivores during fructification as the seeds do not remian viable after a passage through the ruminants digestive tract. It was suggested to make pure stands (that are less prone to overgrazing) from seeds to subsequently re-establish salsola glabrescens in rangeland  (Wilcock, 2009).

Saline wetlands

Salsola is a typical species of the Eastern saltwort wetlands in South-Africa : it grows on brakish pans and valley bottoms (Sieben et al., 2016).

Endangered species

Salsola has been refferred to as being et  "least concern" in the South-Africa national assessment of the IUCN Red List (Foden et al., 2005).

Nutritional aspects
Nutritional attributes 

Fresh S. glabrescens has a protein concentration of 16.5%, a crude fibre content of 25.2% and an ash content of 13.2% (Henrici, 1945). Salsola spp. may also accumulate sodium sulphate, which may affect the palatability of this species (Van der Heyden et al., 1999).


Readily eaten by sheep and goats.

Among Karoo grasses and bushes, Salsola glabrescens can be considered as a palatable bush for sheep and goats when it is fed fresh. However, it is not eaten when leaves are dried. Its nutritive value is high with relatively high protein content and high digestibility. It contains also important amount of sodium sulfates. Salsola glabrescens cannot be fed alone and must be mixed with poor quality forages.


Fresh salsola (Salsola glabrescens) has been classified as a palatable bushes by sheep or goats raised in the Karoo by several authors (du Toit et al., 1995; Le Roux et al., 1994; Davies et al., 1986; Hobson et al., 1975). It was reported to be readily eaten by sheep and goats when fresh (Henrici, 1952; Henrici, 1945). However, it was not eaten by sheep and goats when the leaves were dried (Henrici, 1952; Henrici, 1945). For that reason, it is no use to conserve this forage dry.

Fresh salsola was specially selected by rams during Karoo drought (Davies et al., 1986). A reason is that this very drought tolerant species is often the only remaining green foliage during those periods (Le Roux et al., 1994; Hobson et al., 1975). Thoughout a year, it was observed that sheep and goats grazed Salsola glabrescens, on average, in proportion to their availability in winter, spring and autumn and in a lower proportion in autumn (du Toit et al., 1995). Salsola glabrescens was less grazed when it occured in homogenous stands (Le Roux et al., 1994).

Digestibility and nutritive value

When fed fresh during winter and early spring, leaves of salsola (Salsola glabrescens) are characterized by digestibilities of dry matter and fibre of 70.5% and 67.5% respectively in sheep (Henrici, 1945). These values can be considered high in comparison to other forages arising from Karoo bushes (Henrici, 1945). The crude protein content of salsola is also high compared to that of other Karoo bushes, i.e. about 16% according to Henrici (1945). Therefore, it can be considered that the nutritive value of fresh salsola is high. Whether its non protein nitrogen content may be high, the nitrate content of salsola is very low, i.e. between 0.08 and 0.11 % (Henrici, 1952).

Fresh salsola has high ash content, i. e. 13.2% (Henrici,1945). Salsola is classified as one of the Karoo shrubs that accumulates most of sodium chloride or sulphates, like most other members of the Salsola  genus (Henrici, 1952). More specifically, salsola (Salsola glabrescens)like other Salsola species, have a very high sulphate and sodium contents, especially on brak soil on which the ash content of such plants may be as high as 30-40% (Henrici, 1952).

[On ordinary soil after some years the soil becomes depleted of sulphate by the drain from the plants, and the sulphate decrease (Henrici, 1952). Salsola species are also known for their low seasonal fluctuations of phosphorus contents (Henrici, 1952). This latter can be relatively high compared to other Karoo plants, and more specifically Karoo grasses in summer and winter (Henrici, 1952).]

Salsola glabrescens should never be offered as only grazing because of risk of diarrhea (Botha, 1939 cited by Henrici, 1952). It must be treated as concentrates with poor grass given as supplement to balance the diet (Henrici, 1945, Henrici, 1952). For digestibility trials, sheep were fed two parts of fresh Themeda for one part of salsola on a fresh basis (Henrici, 1945).

Sheep are fond of salsola glabrescens because of its high chlorides (potassium and sodium) content. Sheep fed on salsola do not need salt in their licks or supplemental feeding. However, the salty character of the shrub may be a constraint: if it is fed alone, sheep will not favour it too much (too salty), and if it is fed in association with others shrubs it can be heavily grazed but the concomittent high level of calcium and magnesium and the unbalanced Ca; P ratio in salsola prevents phosphorus availability and can be detrimental to sheep. Moreover, its high level of magnesium sulphate has laxative effect on sheep. These are reasons why sheep fed on high or small amount of salsola can only maintain their bodyweight but cannot fatten. The laxative properties of salsola have however been reported to keep worms down (Buttner, 2012).

When leaves of Salsola glabrescens are fed dried, the digestibility of fiber and protein become very low (Henrici, 1945, Henrici, 1952).

Fat content and meat quality

Salsola glabrescens is also characterized by a high ether extract content, even though it remains in the average for Karoo plants (Henrici, 1945), but also by a very high digestibility of ether extract (more than 98%) (Henrici, 1952). Ether extract can be assimilated to fat even though its exact composition is not totally described. This has been evocated as a reason of the high fat content of meat from sheep of the Karoo and the positive effect of Salsola glabrescens of gains in body weight (Henrici, 1952).

It has been observed that Salsola glabrescens could contribute, among other Karoo Salsola species to the specific sensory profile of Karoo lamb likely because of high contents of plants econdary metabolites, such as mono- and sesquiterpenes (Erasmus et al., 2016). Descriptors related to this plant in sensory panels were : dusty, dandy, soapy, woody, damp/musty Cayenne pepper, sheep wool, tobacco, Ceylon tea (Erasmus et al., 2016).


Up to now (August 2019) no information seems available in the international literature on the use of salsola  (Salsola glabrescens) in the European rabbit feeding (Oryctolagus cuniculus). It can be only noticed that field observations made in South Africa identified salsola as one of the food species used locally by the riverine rabbit (Bunolagus monticularis)(Hughes et al., 2008).

Nutritional tables
Tables of chemical composition and nutritional value 

Avg: average or predicted value; SD: standard deviation; Min: minimum value; Max: maximum value; Nb: number of values (samples) used

IMPORTANT INFORMATION: This datasheet is pending revision and updating; its contents are currently derived from FAO's Animal Feed Resources Information System (1991-2002) and from Bo Göhl's Tropical Feeds (1976-1982).

Main analysis Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
Crude protein % DM 16.5 1
Crude fibre % DM 25.2 1
Ether extract % DM 2.1 1
Ash % DM 13.2 1
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 17.5 *
Minerals Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
Calcium g/kg DM 19.5 1
Phosphorus g/kg DM 1.5 1
Ruminant nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
OM digestibility, Ruminant % 74.1 1
ME ruminants (FAO, 1982) MJ/kg DM 10.4 1
Nitrogen digestibility, ruminants % 69.8 1

The asterisk * indicates that the average value was obtained by an equation.


Henrici, 1945

Last updated on 24/10/2012 00:44:59

Datasheet citation 

DATASHEET UNDER CONSTRUCTION. DO NOT QUOTE. https://www.feedipedia.org/node/99 Last updated on August 26, 2019, 10:08

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