The Maltese Salt-tree (Maltese: Siġra tal-Irmied or Xebb) is an endemic species which is only found on the Maltese Islands. This scarce plant is known by the botanical name of Darniella melitensis and is in fact the only Darniella species representative in Europe. Although, the Maltese Salt-tree is thought to represent a relict species dating from the ice-ages, it was only first described in 1976.
This plant which is typically found on cliffsides and boulder screes, is resilient to harsh abiotic conditions such as lack of water, strong winds, sea spray and very little soil. The inaccessibility of its habitat, however, has also meant that it has received very little interference from man.
The Maltese Salt Tree, is essentially a medium to large perennial dense shrub which reaching a height of around 2.5 metres, although large specimens reaching up to 4-5m in height are known. Its small leaves are cylindrical and succulent a common water-saving feature for maritime plants. The flowers of the Maltese Salt-tree are small and inconspicuous. And following fertilisation these produce a fruit having five ‘wings’ , helping the wind transport the seeds further from the parent plants.
The Maltese Salt-tree is considered to be a strictly protected shrub under national legislation and one should not prune, cut or uproot this plant without prior obtaining the necessary permits from the Competent Authorities. In addition, MEPA is also helping to protect this important shrub and many other rupestral species through the designation of Special Areas of Conservation.