Athel Pine

Latin Name: Tamarix aphylla

Pic by joedecruenaere

Pic by joedecruenaere

Alternative Name(s): Tamarisk, Salt Cedar

Family: Tamaricaceae.

Known Hazards: None known.

Habitat: Wadis in hot desert areas in salty and non-salty habitats.

Edibility Rating: 1 (1-5)

Medicinal Rating: 1 (1-5)

Physical Characteristics: Tree to 15 m high. Bark brown. Leaves possess salt secreting glands. Fruit a capsule to 3mm long. Seeds minute, with a cluster of hairs at one end.
Flowers: Flowers arranged spirally in dense spike-like racemes. Flowers summer and autumn. The flowers are hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects.

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Distinguishing features: Distinguished by salty tasting branchlets and leaves, grey-green scale-like leaves to 2 mm long, sheathing the stem; branches spreading and with pendulous jointed grey-green branchlets; white flowers with pink anthers.

Dispersal: Spread by seeds and suckers, principally by seed or plants moved in flood waters.

Confused With: Salt Cedar Tamarix ramosissima has small triangular leaves that do not sheath the stem.

Edible Uses

A sweet manna-like substance that forms on the twigs is used to adulterate cane sugar. It can also be eaten with porridge etc or mixed with water to make a refreshing drink.

 

Medicinal Uses

Astringent; Bitter. The galls are astringent. The bark is astringent and bitter.

Other Uses

Hedge; Tannin. Very tolerant of maritime exposure, it makes a good shelter hedge in coastal gardens. Galls produced on the twigs and flowers (probably as a result of insect activity) contain up to 55% tannin. The wood has been used for fuel.

Notes: Introduced to Australia in about 1930. Salt tolerant and drought resistant. Useful as a windbreak and shade tree and its timber can be used for fence posts and firewood. Also used to stabilise sand dunes and to revegetate disturbed arid areas, a notable example occurring at Broken Hill, NSW. Now naturalised along 400 km of Finke River, NT and along Gascoyne River near Carnarvon, WA. Crowds out native vegetation. Salt excreted from leaf glands often increases surface soil salinity and eliminates less salt tolerant plants. Potentially a threat to many inland rivers.

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