Athel pine

Tamarix aphylla
Tree
Alternate
Reduced / Needle
White
Pink
Green

A spreading tree with rough and deeply furrowed bark that is dark grey or greyish-brown its younger stems are smooth, jointed, and have a bluish-green or greyish-green appearance. Its leaves are reduced to tiny scales (1-2 mm long) and are alternately arranged along the fine branchlets its small flowers (with petals about 2 mm long) are stalkless, pale pink or whitish in colour. They are borne in elongated clusters (3-6 cm long) near the tips of the branches its small bell-shaped capsules (2-3 mm long) contain numerous minute seeds that are topped with a tuft of tiny hairs.

Common names 
Also known as: athel pine, athel, athel tamarisk, athel tree, desert tamarisk, flowering cypress, salt cedar, tamarisk,
Family 
Tamaricaceae
Deciduous 
No
Flowering time 
Summer
Native/Exotic 
Exotic
Origin 
Native to northern and eastern Africa (i.e. Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan and Kenya), south-western Asia (i.e. Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Israel) and the Indian sub-continent (i.e. Pakistan).
Notifiable 
No
State declaration 
Category 3 - Must not be distributed or disposed. This means it must not be released into the environment unless the distribution or disposal is authorised in a regulation or under a permit.
Council declaration 
As per State Declaration
Known distribution 

Widely naturalised, but scattered, mainly in the drier inland parts of Australia (i.e. in the southern and central parts of the Northern Territory, in western Queensland and north-western New South Wales, in many parts of South Australia and in some parts

Habitat 

A weed of in semi-arid, arid, sub-tropical and warmer temperate regions. It is particularly common along inland waterways, but is occasionally also a weed of open woodlands, grasslands, pastures and roadsides.

Habit 

A small or medium-sized spreading tree that can reach up to 10-12 m in height.

Impact and control methods 

Athel pine (Tamarix aphylla) is regarded as a significant environmental weed in the Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia and is actively managed by community groups in the Northern Territory and Western Australia. It is also regarded as a potentially significant environmental weed in other parts of Australia, and is one of the twenty Weeds of National Significance (WoNS) in Australia.

Stem and leaves 

This species is often multi-stemmed and produces a spreading crown of many stout branches and long, drooping, jointed twigs. The older bark on the main trunk is dark grey or greyish-brown, rough, and furrowed into long narrow ridges. Younger stems are smooth, jointed, and have a bluish-green or greyish-green appearance. As these branches mature they turn brown and then greyish in colour. The leaves are reduced to tiny scales (1-2 mm long) and are alternately arranged along the fine branchlets (which are often mistaken for cylindrical leaves and are similar in appearance to pine needles). These 'leaves' are bluish-green (i.e. glaucous) or a dull greyish-green colour.

Flowers and fruits 

Large numbers of small, pale pink or whitish coloured flowers are produced along the tips of the branches. Separate male and female flowers are borne on the same plant (i.e. this species is monoecious). These flowers are stalkless (i.e. sessile) and borne in elongated clusters (i.e. racemes) 3-6 cm long. They have five sepals and five petals (about 2 mm long), and the male flowers have five stamens. Flowering occurs mostly during summer. The small fruit are bell-shaped capsules (2-3 mm long) containing numerous minute seeds. Each of these seeds is topped with a tuft of tiny hairs (most of the seeds are usually sterile).

Reproduction and dispersal 

This plant reproduces by seeds that are dispersed by wind, flood waters and animals. It may also spread via suckering and the rooting of buried or submerged stem segments that have broken from the tree and been carried significant distances by flood waters.

Similar species 

Athel pine (Tamarix aphylla) is very similar to salt cedar (Tamarix ramosissima) and small-flowered tamarisk (Tamarix parviflora). These three species can be distinguished by the following differences: athel pine (Tamarix aphylla) is a small to medium-sized evergreen tree (up to 12 m or more tall). Its flowers have five white to pale pink petals.salt cedar (Tamarix ramosissima) is a large shrub or small semi-deciduous or deciduous tree (less than 5 m tall) that has tiny leaves that are stalkless. Its flowers have five pink to purple petals.small-flowered tamarisk (Tamarix parviflora) is a large shrub or small semi-deciduous or deciduous tree (less than 6 m tall) that has tiny leaves that are stalkless. Its flowers have four pink to purple petals. Athel pine (Tamarix aphylla) has a similar appearance to the native she-oaks (Casuarina spp. and Allocasuarina spp.). However, athel pine (Tamarix aphylla) can be distinguished from these native plants by its fruit and close inspection of the scale leaves on the fine branchlets. The scale leaves of the native she-oaks (Casuarina spp. and Allocasuarina spp.) are arranged in whorls around the branchlets, while those of athel pine (Tamarix aphylla) are alternately arranged along the branchlets. Also, the native she-oaks (Casuarina spp. and Allocasuarina spp.) produce hard, woody fruit that resemble small pine cones.