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Athel tree

Tamarisk1

Tamarisk2

   


family

Tamaricaceae

status

Athel tree, athel pine or tamarisk (Tamarix aphylla) is listed as noxious in category 5 throughout NSW. It cannot be sold, propagated or knowingly distributed.

Description

A spreading small tree to 15 metres high, grey-green with drooping branchlets like those of a native she-oak (Casuarina species). Leaves are reduced to small sheathing scales, wrapping around the stems as a continuous sheath completely enclosing the stem. Flowers are small and pink and carried in 3-4cm long dense spikes on the previous season's growth. The photo above is not of this species but of the similar garden plant tamarisk or salt cedar (see under look-alikes below). View the fact sheet on this species at the link below.

Preferred habitat and impacts

Naturalised from amenity plantings in the arid inland, including western NSW, where the extensive flooding that occurs when western rivers break their banks has spread the seed over a very wide area. Tamarisk species are very salt-tolerant and can form dense thickets particularly on watercourses.  Many are found in their country of origin on coastal flats and estuaries, and they may have been planted for coastal windbreaks in Australia because of this salt tolerance.  In view of the invasiveness of athel tree, it would seem unwise to plant any tamarisk species, particularly in coastal areas in proximity to wet saline soils.

Dispersal

To date most seed spread has been in water. There are numerous tamarisk species some of which are sold as garden plants, so athel tree could escape into new areas of infestation from garden or farm plantings.

Look-alikes

There are many species of tamarisks, all introduced in Australia, and only Tamarix aphylla is currently listed as noxious in NSW. The photo above is not of this species but of the similar garden plant tamarisk or salt cedar (Tamarix ramosissima also known as T. pentandra). It differs in having overlapping rows of scale like leaves with each individual leaf not completely encircling the branchlet .

Control

Do not plant athel tree and if you see if being offered for sale anywhere, inform your local Council weeds staff. If you have trees of this species planted it would be advisable to remove them. Cutting the tree down and painting the stump with glyphosate would probably be the most efficient way to do this, although follow-up cutting and painting may be needed to deal with regrowth suckers arising from the root system.



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