Tamarix aphylla

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In view of the fact that some tree species are invasive, the world Agroforestry Center (ICRAF) has put in place a policy document on Invasive Alien Species, currently under draft available at Here.

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100 of the World's worst Invasive and Alien Species.

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Related Links
Flowers at LZ1 Kahoolawe, Hawaii
© Forest and Kim Starr
Plant at Kekaha, Kauai, Hawaii
© Forest and Kim Starr
Flowers at LZ1 Kahoolawe, Hawaii
© Forest and Kim Starr
Flowering habit at Kula, Maui, Hawaii
© Forest and Kim Starr

Local names:
Arabic (ubal,tarfa,athl,bigm,fareq), Bengali (raktajhav), English (athel tree,tamarisk,salt cedar,eshel,leafless tamarisk), German (Blattlose tamariske), Hindi (lal-jhav,erraerusaru,farash,asreli,kharlei,narbi,raktajhav), Somali (dur), Tamil (shivappu-at

Tamarix aphylla is a fast growing, moderate sized evergreen tree, up to 18 m high with erect tapering trunk, 60-80 cm dbh with many stout spreading purplish brown and smooth branches. Twigs drooping, wiry or needle-like, up to 1.5 mm diameter, jointed, older twigs greenish-brown, hairless, mostly shedding. Bark light grey-brown or reddish-brown, rough, becoming thick and deeply furrowed into long narrow hard ridges. A deep and extensive root system, about 10 m vertically and 34 m horizontally.

Leaves bluish-green, alternate, reduced to tiny scales ensheathing wiry twigs and ending in points, hairless, often with epidermal salt glands each forming a joint along the twig.

Flowers many, nearly stalkless, tiny, whitish-pink, in racemes 3-6 mm long, 4-5 mm broad at end of twigs, drooping.

Fruit a small capsule, many, narrow, pointed, 5 mm long, splitting into 3 parts. Seeds many, 0.5 mm long, brown, each with tuft of whitish hairs 3 mm long.

The specific name means without leaves.


Popular habitats include sand dunes, canals, riverbanks, wadi beds, salty deserts, salt marshes and coastal plains. The tree is drought, heat, salt and frost tolerant.

Native range
Algeria, Bahrain, Chad, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Morocco, Niger, Oman, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda, Yemen, Republic of

Tree management

Weeding is necessary to facilitate proper growth at the early stages of establishment but eventually its litter suppresses the weeds. Young seedlings should be protected from grazing. Drastic thinning is done when the plants have attained over two years of growth to (30) 37-50 plants/ha. Pruning is necessary to prevent development into a shrub with many weak main stems which are subject to splitting and breaking off at ground level. Wood can be exploited for fuel in the fourth year after planting. Coppices readily and shoots after heavy lopping which is rare in arid zone species. The species has extensive surface roots which makes it unpopular for intercropping due to excessive competition for water and nutrients with crops. Also older trees have a tendency of blowing over in high wind.

The viability of the recalcitrant seed in open storage is very low, perhaps not more than 1 week, each day of storage diminishes the germinative capacity and therefore success could only be achieved with the immediate sowing. Based on seed size and ecology, the species may show orthodox seed storage behavior. There are 100 000-286 000 seeds/kg.

Popular habitats include sand dunes, canals, riverbanks, wadi beds, salty deserts, salt marshes and coastal plains. The tree is drought, heat, salt and frost tolerant.

Closed capsules do not contain any fertile seed, therefore, only capsules which are just opening or have partly opened should be collected. Not usually propagated from seeds as they loose viability rapidly. Therefore establishment through seed is limited in isolated instances. Easily propagated from cuttings. Cuttings of 10 cm length, stripped of foliage, stored in moist sand for 10 days to develop root buds are planted in the nursery with 1.5 cm exposed above the soil. Long well-rooted and established cuttings can be planted directly in to the sand, even on moving dunes. Young plants require watering, especially in dry periods to facilitate good establishment. Saplings are often planted close together.

Erosion control:  The species is highly valued for stabilizing sand dunes due to its fast growth, deep and extensive root system and ability to resist burial by shifting sand.

Tender branches and leaves provide high value forage, particularly during the dry period. However, a high salt content necessitates additional watering of livestock.

Apiculture: Honey is dark brown with a minty aroma.

Burns reasonably well though slow to catch fire. Used for firewood and charcoal (calorific value, 4835 kcal/kg). Leaf litter and small branches burn poorly, perhaps because of their high salt content. It gives an offensive odour if burnt green.

Fibre:  The wood chips easily with little dust being produced. Chips are of good quality and colour, suitable for manufacture of particleboard. Twigs are used for basket making.

Timber:  Wood, close-grained, light-coloured, fibrous, fairly hard, heavy (specific gravity 0.6-0.7.5) strong, density of about 700 kg/m³, high shock resistance, splits readily when first cut and polishes well. Useful for making ploughs, wheels, carts, construction, tool handles, brush-backs, ornaments, carpentry, furniture, turnery and fruit boxes.

Shade or shelter:  An important tree for shade. Very useful for obtaining temporary shelter as quickly as possible, which can be removed once the adjacent longer-term shelterbelt has attained sufficient size.

Tannin or dyestuff:  Galls, mainly from flowers are used for tanning leather. The bark is also a rich source of tannin and mordant for dyeing.

Medicine:  Flower galls are used as an astringent and gargle, bark for treating eczema and other skin diseases.

Ornamental:  Quite an attractive ornamental tree. The thin branches and blue-green leaves give a feather-like appearance and drooping clusters of delicately coloured inflorescence are attractive, used to screen farm buildings and for street planting.

Soil improver:  The tree sheds leaves and twigs abundantly forming a compact litter that improves water holding capacity of the sand. However, it is reported to have a high water output through transpiration.

Other services:  Tamarisk is used as a plant indicator for soil type in agricultural surveys. Salt drip from the leaves kill all ground vegetation beneath the tree and litter from it is too salinized to burn thus strips of the species can be grown to stop