The Myth that Fruits, Flowers and Trees do not grow in Salt Water
Whereas most humans recognize that we live on an extremely beautiful planet consisting of mountains, oceans, rivers, forests and grasslands, most humans also recognize that some very ugly spots have developed on our planet as a result of adverse human activity. No other species on the planet has scarred the land more than humans through felled forests, jungles of concretes and unsanitary filthy human habitations. At the same time humans have the capabilities to restore the planet or parts of it to a healthy green state. One myth that stands in the way of greening the Earth is that trees and flowers do not grow in salt water and salty soils. Nothing could be further from the truth. While it is true that a large number of plants do not survive in salt water, there are also a very large number of plants that do rather well in saline conditions. The myth that plants do not grow in salty conditions needs to be busted. If it was so, the ocean floors would not be teeming with life.
Coconut palm, sea grape, pine oak, white ash,red cedar and the saw palmetto are all highly salt tolerant trees. No beach scene is complete without a coconut tree and these are excellent choices for planting near the sea, as are true date palms. Acacia Cyclops and Acacia Stenophylla will tolerate extreme salinity. There are madronas growing directly on salt-water sandspits and it is said, they won't grow unless within smelling distance of saltwater. It grows in climates ranging from those of California to Scotland. Salt cedar and salt bush do so well with salt they can be used to remove salt from the soil. The Beach Plum grows on the sand, along with Rosa Rugusa,which come in different sizes and colors. It is a fast-growing, giant evergreen, reaching 250'; and 6' in diameter, the Sitka spruce favors both freshwater and saltwater wetland areas where it often dominates. It is found along the Pacific coast from central Alaska to northern California and is common in Southern Alaska and northern British Columbia. It has has been introduced in Britain.
Ponderosa Pine is a magnificent, three-needle yellow pine. It grows rapidly, reaching 200 feet; with widths of 30 feet. They are excellent specimens for coastal planting, being very tolerant of salt spray. Pinus contorta is a fast growing, two-needle yellow pine closely related to Lodgepole pine. It is highly tolerant of poor soils and saline conditions, it occurs in the wild on sandy bluffs along the seashore and also in peat bogs at higher elevations, where it becomes a natural bonsai. Salix hookeriana (Hooker's Willow) is a a stout, stiffly branched shrub or small tree, to 20 ft, 4" showy catkins. It grows well near salt water.
Even some flowers can do well with saline water. Ice plant produces striking flowers and is an effective ground cover for erosion control on sandy soil. Other flowers that grow in saline water include sunflowers, groundcover gardenia and hellebore. Statice, also called sea flower or limonium, can even be grown successfully along the highly saline Dead Sea coast. Bougainvillea, jasmine and oleander tolerate saline conditions. Pomegranates are said to perform well in salty conditions too. In countries where drought is common and fresh water is lacking, it is becoming increasingly necessary to develop strains of saline-tolerant food plants. Researchers have successfully created strains of beets, spinach, sugarcane and rice that grow where the saline water table is high. Oil crops like rapeseed and livestock fodder such as sweet clover, white clover and lucerne can also be grown in saline conditions.
The list of plants that will grow in salty conditions as indicated here is by no means exhaustive. Even a cursory search on the Internet will reveal more. What is needed in different parts of the world where saline conditions exist and where only salt water is available for irrigation is to create experimental nurseries where different plants are grown in salt water so as to discover which do the best in the area. These can then be propogated in surrounding areas. With human ingenuity there is absolutely no reason why the Sahara and other regions near sea coasts that are presently barren should continue to remain so. The Arab countries need not be desert countries. A democratic revolution is on in the Arab world. Hopefully it will be followed by a green revolution.
A side benefit of growing such salt water forests will be that they will result in carbon capture from the atmosphere and help improve climate on the planet. Some recent studies indicate that climate extremes may be due to to reducing tree cover on the planet rather than increased carbon dioxide. Either way more trees and green will help. Therefore there is a need for the entire world to contribute in improving the planet as a whole. Perhaps it is for countries like Australia that have suffered the most from climate change to play a leading role in organising such international efforts. Much more results will be produced in this direction than in failed attempts to cap carbon emissions through burning of fossil fuels. That is something that will take place on its own as we run out of fossil fuels. The greening of the planet on the other hand will not take place for a long time unless man intervenes actively.