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Tamarix aphylla is the largest known species of Tamarix. It is an evergreen tree that can grow to 18 metres tall. Originally found across North, East and Central Africa, through the Middle East, and into parts of Western and Southern Asia, it is commonly used for windbreaks on the edges of agricultural fields and as a shade tree in the deserts of the Southwestern United Statesmarker. Although this species has not naturalised in areas of the United States where it is grown (unlike several other species of tamarisk), it has been declared a Weed of National Significance in Australia.

Originally described by the father of taxonomy Carolus Linnaeus, its specific name is derived from the Ancient Greek a "without", and phyllon "leaf". The species has a variety of common names, including Athel pine, Athel tree, Athel tamarisk, and saltcedar.

It grows as a tree to 18 metres (60 ft) high. The tiny leaves are alternately arranged along the branches, and exude salt, which can form a crusted layer on the surface, and drip onto the ground beneath. The species can reproduce by seed or by suckering.

It is found along watercourses in arid areas. The latitudinal range ranges from 35 N to 0 N, and it ranges from Morocco and Algeria in North Africa eastwards to Egypt and south to the Horn of Africa and into Kenya. It is found in the Middle East and the Arabian Peninsula, east through Iran and into India and Afghanistan.

Tamarix aphylla has been used as a windbreak and shade tree in agriculture and horticulture for decades, especially in dryer regions such as the western United States and central and western Australia. Within these regions it has spread, most dramatically and noticeably in central Australia after floods of 1974 along the Finke River in the Northern Territory. Since then it has become a serious weed in the Northern Territory and Western Australia. The species had been present for many decades without much spread before this.Griffin, G. F.; Smith, D. M. S.; Morton, S. R.; Allan, G. E.; Masters, K. A.; Preece, N. (1989) Status and implications of the invasion of tamarisk (Tamarix aphylla ) on the Finke River, Northern Territory, Australia. Journal of Environmental Management, 1989, Vol.29, No.4, 297-315

It tends to use more water than most indigenous plants in Australia, which it outcompetes. It has replaced eucalyptus along watercourses in the interior.

References

  1. Forest Service Ecology
  2. CAB International, (2000) Forestry Compendium Global Module. Wallingford, UK: CAB International

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