Athel Pine

Tamarix aphylla (L.) H. Karst

Synonyms -

Family: Tamaricaceae


Other Names:

Athel Tree
Salt Cedar


Athel Pine or Tamarisk is a dense spreading greyish green evergreen tree to 10 m high with a red-brown trunk. The leaves are reduced to tiny scales surrounding the slender branchlets giving the branchlets a jointed appearance. The flowers are small, bisexual and arranged in narrow catkin-like sprays 30-40 mm long. The individual flowers have 5 pinkish petals 2 mm long. The fruits are small capsules 2-3 mm long, the seeds each have an apical tuft of hairs.
They tend to sucker and form thickets along water courses and may take root from broken branches. Native to eastern Europe and Asia and planted frequently as a shade tree particularly along waterways and coastal areas mainly from Carnarvon northwards. Flowers in spring to autumn.
Superficially similar to Allocasuarina species (Sheoak), but these have segmented stems with a whorl of 4-8 tiny scale-like triangular leaves. The male flowers in Sheoak are brown and the female flowers red and the tiny seeds are held in a woody cone. Also similar to Callitris which differs also in having woody cones.




First leaves:


Stipules - None.
Petiole - None.
Blade - 1-2 mm long scale like.


10 m tall. Reddish brown bark. Slender curved branches.
Sapwood is ring porous.

Flower head:

Cluster of dense racemes on new growth.


Pinkish. Mainly bisexual and stalkless or with a very short stalk.
Ovary - Superior. Usually 3 carpels
Sepals - 5, 2 mm long.
Petals - 5, pinkish, 2 mm long.
Stamens - 5.
Anthers - Releasing pollen by longitudinal slits.


Capsule, 2-3 mm long.


Tuft of hairs on top.


Key Characters:

Shrub or small tree.
Leaves reduced to scales, alternate.
Flowers small, pink in large terminal clusters.
Petals 5, pink
Sepals 5
Stamens 5
Ovary superior
Fruiting pedicel neither enlarged nor succulent.


Life cycle:

Perennial shrub or tree. It produces its first seed at about 3 years old.


Salt tolerant. It has the ability to exude salt from its leaves.


By seed.

Flowering times:

February and May in WA.
Spring to autumn.

Seed Biology and Germination:

Short lived.

Vegetative Propagules:

Rapidly re shoots from below ground if damaged. Roots sucker and stems coppice.



Population Dynamics and Dispersal:

Spread by seed and intentional planting.
Seed is spread by wind, birds and mammals.

Origin and History:

Southern Russia, eastern Europe to China.
Introduced for salt land plantings and as an ornamental.



Courtesy Australia's Virtual Herbarium.



Temperate to arid.


Grows mainly in areas where it can reach ground water. Common on saline soils.

Plant Associations:



Ornamental. Used for shelter and hedges.
Used to reduce water table and for erosion control along water courses.


High water use plants that may cause salting.
May dry up soaks in arid areas by lowering the water table.
Weed of waterways, range lands and disturbed areas.
Impedes water movement in drainage lines and may contribute to flooding.
Form impenetrable thickets of tangled stems up to 10 m tall.
Invasive weed of the USA infesting over half a million hectares.
Usually increases the risk of wild fires in infested areas which favours its spread, because it recovers quicker than most species from burning.


Not recorded as toxic.





Management and Control:

Burning usually increases the prevalence of Tamarix.
Seedlings may be manually removed but larger plants re shoot from the roots.


Eradication strategies:

Apply a systemic herbicide such as glyphosate or triclopyr as an overall treatment or cut the stems then apply the herbicide to the cut end and down the sides of the stem.

Herbicide resistance:

None reported.

Biological Control:

Related plants:

Athel Tree (Tamarix aphylla) has sheathed and overlapping leaves giving the stems a segmented appearance.
Tamarix gallica Probably occurs along the Avon River in WA.
Tamarix chinensis
Tamarix parviflora has 4 petals rather than 5. It is in WA.
Tamarix pentandra
Tamarix ramosissima is in WA.
The last 4 species are probably not naturalised in Australia but are weeds elsewhere

Plants of similar appearance:

Superficially similar to Allocasuarina species (Sheoak and Tamma thicket), but these have segmented stems with a whorl of 4-8 tiny scale-like triangular leaves. The male flowers in Sheoak are brown and the female flowers red and the tiny seeds are held in a woody cone. Also similar to Callitris which differs also in having woody cones.


Auld, B.A. and Medd R.W. (1992). Weeds. An illustrated botanical guide to the weeds of Australia. (Inkata Press, Melbourne). P232.

Bodkin, F. (1986). Encyclopaedia Botanica. (Angus and Robertson, Australia).

Everist, S.L. (1974). Poisonous Plants of Australia. (Angus and Robertson, Sydney).

Harden, Gwen J. (1991). Flora of NSW. (Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney). Volume 1. P451. V4, P664.

Lamp, C. and Collet, F. (1990). A Field Guide to Weeds in Australia. (Inkata Press, Melbourne).

Lazarides, M. and Cowley, K. and Hohnen, P. (1997). CSIRO handbook of Australian Weeds. (CSIRO, Melbourne). #978.2.

Randall, J.M. and Marinelli, J. (1996) Invasive Plants. (Brooklyn Botanic Gardens Inc. Brooklyn). P43-44. Photos.


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