Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Tamarix aphylla



Tamarix aphylla (athel)


  • Last modified
  • 16 November 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Tamarix aphylla
  • Preferred Common Name
  • athel
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • T. aphylla can produce numerous seeds that can be spread over a wide area by wind and water. The relatively low rate of T. aphylla invasion in North America was probably related to low seed production. However, the recently discovered sexual reproduc...

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A row of mature trees, Pakistan.
TitleMature trees
CaptionA row of mature trees, Pakistan.
Copyright©K.M. Siddiqui
A row of mature trees, Pakistan.
Mature treesA row of mature trees, Pakistan.©K.M. Siddiqui
TitleOld tree with hollow stem
Copyright©K.M. Siddiqui
Old tree with hollow stem©K.M. Siddiqui
TitleTree in bloom
Copyright©K.M. Siddiqui
Tree in bloom©K.M. Siddiqui
TitleFlowering branch
Copyright©K.M. Siddiqui
Flowering branch©K.M. Siddiqui
Coppice regeneration in agriculture fields [location].
TitleCoppice regeneration
CaptionCoppice regeneration in agriculture fields [location].
Copyright©K.M. Siddiqui
Coppice regeneration in agriculture fields [location].
Coppice regenerationCoppice regeneration in agriculture fields [location].©K.M. Siddiqui
Copyright©K.M. Siddiqui
Wildings©K.M. Siddiqui
Shelterbelt on farmland.
CaptionShelterbelt on farmland.
Copyright©K.M. Siddiqui
Shelterbelt on farmland.
ShelterbeltShelterbelt on farmland.©K.M. Siddiqui
Trees in the Thal Desert, Pakistan, protecting a road from sand movement.
TitleRoadside trees
CaptionTrees in the Thal Desert, Pakistan, protecting a road from sand movement.
Copyright©K.M. Siddiqui
Trees in the Thal Desert, Pakistan, protecting a road from sand movement.
Roadside treesTrees in the Thal Desert, Pakistan, protecting a road from sand movement.©K.M. Siddiqui
TitleTrees by dry stream bed
Copyright©K.M. Siddiqui
Trees by dry stream bed©K.M. Siddiqui


Top of page

Preferred Scientific Name

  • Tamarix aphylla (L.) Karst. (1882)

Preferred Common Name

  • athel

Other Scientific Names

  • Tamarix aphylla (L.) Lanza (1909) comb. illegit.
  • Tamarix aphylla (L.) Warb. (1929) comb. illegit.
  • Tamarix articulata Vahl (1791) nom. illegit.
  • Tamarix orientalis Forsk. (1775)
  • Thuja aphylla L. (1838)

International Common Names

  • English: athel pine; athel tamarisk; athel tree; desert tamarisk; evergreen athel; flowering cypress; saltcedar; tamarisk
  • Spanish: pinebete

Local Common Names

  • Germany: Blattlose Tamariske
  • India: asreli; erraerusaru; errashirisaru; eshel; farash; jhau; kharbi; kharlei; laljhav; lal-jhav-nu-jhado; narbi; narlei; okan; pharwan; rahta; raktajhav; shivappu-atru-shavukka; tarfa; ukon
  • Pakistan: asreli; farash; jhau; kharbi; laljhav; narbi; okan; pharwan; rahta; ukon
  • South Africa: woestyntamarisk

EPPO code

  • TAAAP (Tamarix aphylla)

Trade name

  • farash
  • tamarisk

Summary of Invasiveness

Top of page T. aphylla can produce numerous seeds that can be spread over a wide area by wind and water. The relatively low rate of T. aphylla invasion in North America was probably related to low seed production. However, the recently discovered sexual reproduction and aggressive invasion at Lake Mead, Nevada (possibly of a hybrid form), makes T. aphylla a threat in other areas of the desert in southwestern USA (Barnes et al., 2004) and northern Mexico. This species has spread rapidly and become a very serious weed along several hundred metres of the Finke River in arid central Australia (Griffin et al., 1989).

Taxonomic Tree

Top of page
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Tamaricales
  •                         Family: Tamaricaceae
  •                             Genus: Tamarix
  •                                 Species: Tamarix aphylla

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

Top of page The Old World genus Tamarix belongs to the family Tamaricaceae. According to the latest revision by B. R. Baum published in 1978 (cited in Mabberley, 1997), it comprises 54 species, although other authors have accepted up to 90 species.


Top of page See the datasheet on T. ramosissima for a description of the genus.

T. aphylla is a large (to 20 m tall with a trunk to 1 m or more in diameter) evergreen tree to high shrub. It generally attains small height and large girth. A variable height of the tree has been reported in the literature; 8-12 m (National Academy of Sciences, 1980) and 18 m height and girth of 1.8-2.1 m, occasionally attaining 3-3.5 m girth (Troup, 1921; Brandis, 1924). The tree is not very long-lived. It tapers rapidly and is heavily branched, but its crown does not spread widely.

It has slender, cylindric, jointed branches which are articulate at the base of the sheath. The bark is reddish-brown to grey and the slender twigs are often hoary with deep punctate glands that produce a saline efflorescence. The salty 'tears' drip in the night and the soil beneath trees is generally covered with a salt layer (Troup, 1921; National Academy of Sciences, 1980).

The foliage is fine bluish-grey or greyish-blue and superficially resembles long pine needles or Casuarina foliage. The leaves are small (about 2 mm long) and reduced to tiny scales that ensheath the wiry twigs and are well equipped to withstand desiccation (Troup, 1921). The lamina is reduced to a minute triangular tooth that is marked with glands. The tree is never totally leafless.

The flowers are loosely arranged on the slender spikes. They are small, usually white, occasionally pink, unisexual or bisexual, monoecious or dioecious, sessile and delicate. They are scattered on long, slender spikes which are usually clustered at the end of branches in loose racemose panicles, bracts sheathing. Vernal inflorescences simple, aestival ones compound and more common. Raceme 3-6 cm long, 4-5 mm broad, with sub-sessile flowers. Bracts triangular to broadly triangular, acuminate, somewhat clasping, longer than pedicels. Pedicel much shorter than calyx. Calyx pentamerous. Sepals ca. 1.5 mm long, entire, obtuse, the two outer slightly smaller, broadly ovate to broadly elliptic, slightly keeled, the inner slightly larger, broadly elliptic to sub-orbicular. Corolla pentamerous, sub-persistent to caducous. Petals 2-2.25 mm long, elliptic-oblong to ovate-elliptic. Androecium haplostemonous, of five antesepalous stamens; filaments inserted between the lobes of the nectary disc (hololophic) (Baum, 1978).

Fruit is a small, bell-shaped sessile capsule, and ripens in the cold season. The capsules contain minute seeds with tufts of long, soft, woolly hairs. Ripe capsules turn brown and open up gradually to allow the minute seeds to be dispersed by the wind.


Top of page The native range of T. aphylla extends over the Middle East, North, East and Central Africa, and parts of West and South Asia (Brandis, 1924; Bailey, 1960). The species is thought to have originated in the Central Sahara, from where it spread to Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, the Middle East, Egypt and North Africa, as well as to Eritrea, Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia (National Academy of Sciences, 1980; Qaiser 1981).

In North America, it occurs south of the freeze zone in the southern parts of California, Arizona and Texas, or roughly south of the 34th parallel from California through New Mexico and below the 30th parallel in south Texas. It extends into northern Mexico approximately to the 24th parallel. Griffin et al. (1989) gives the distribution of T. aphylla in Australia.

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasivePlantedReferenceNotes


AfghanistanPresent, few occurrencesNative Not invasive Planted, NaturalBaum, 1978
GazaPresent Natural
IndiaWidespreadNativeBrandis et al., 1924; Gamble, 1921
-ChandigarhPresentNativePlanted, Natural
-DelhiPresentNativePlanted, Natural
-HaryanaPresentNativePlanted, Natural
-Indian PunjabPresentNativePlanted, Natural
-Madhya PradeshRestricted distributionNative Not invasive Baum, 1978
-RajasthanPresentNativePlanted, Natural
-Uttar PradeshRestricted distributionNative Not invasive Planted, NaturalBaum, 1978
IranWidespreadNative Not invasive Planted, NaturalBaum, 1978
IraqWidespreadNative Not invasive Planted, NaturalBaum, 1978
IsraelRestricted distributionIntroduced Not invasive Planted Baum, 1978
JordanRestricted distributionNative Not invasive Planted, NaturalBaum, 1978
KuwaitPresentNativePlanted, NaturalUSDA-ARS, 2005
OmanPresent Natural
PakistanWidespreadNative Not invasive Quaiser, 1981; Quaiser, 1982; Baum, 1978; Sheikh, 1993
QatarPresentNative Natural
Saudi ArabiaPresentNativePlanted, NaturalUSDA-ARS, 2005
SyriaPresentNativePlanted, Natural
YemenRestricted distributionNative Not invasive Natural Baum, 1978


AlgeriaWidespreadNative Not invasive Natural Baum, 1978
EgyptWidespreadNative Not invasive Planted, NaturalBaum, 1978
EritreaPresentNativePlanted, Natural
EthiopiaWidespreadNative Not invasive Planted, NaturalBaum, 1978
KenyaPresent, few occurrencesNative Not invasive Planted, NaturalBaum, 1978
LibyaWidespreadNative Not invasive Natural Baum, 1978
MoroccoWidespreadNative Not invasive Baum, 1978; Dembner, 1987
SenegalPresentNative Natural USDA-ARS, 2005
SomaliaWidespreadNative Not invasive Baum, 1978; Calimini et al., 1987
South AfricaPresentIntroduced Invasive Natural Henderson, 2001
SudanRestricted distributionNative Not invasive Planted, NaturalBaum, 1978
TanzaniaPresent, few occurrencesNative Not invasive Baum, 1978
TunisiaRestricted distributionNative Not invasive Planted, NaturalBaum, 1978
Western SaharaPresentNativePlanted, Natural

North America

MexicoRestricted distributionIntroduced Not invasive de León González & Vásquez Aldape, 1991; Scudday, 1989
USAPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-ArizonaRestricted distributionIntroduced Not invasive Baum, 1967
-CaliforniaRestricted distributionIntroduced Not invasive Baum, 1967; Luken and Thieret, 1997
-HawaiiPresentIntroduced Invasive Cronk and Fuller, 1995
-NevadaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2005
-TexasRestricted distributionIntroduced Not invasive Baum, 1967
-UtahPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2005

Central America and Caribbean

Puerto RicoPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2005


CyprusPresentIntroduced Planted


AustraliaPresentIntroduced Invasive Griffin et al., 1989; Cronk and Fuller, 1995
-Australian Northern TerritoryRestricted distributionIntroduced Invasive Griffin et al., 1989; Agriculture & Resource Management Council, 2000
-New South WalesRestricted distributionIntroduced Invasive Agriculture & Resource Management Council, 2000
-QueenslandRestricted distributionIntroduced Invasive Agriculture & Resource Management Council, 2000
-South AustraliaRestricted distributionIntroduced Invasive Griffin et al., 1989; Agriculture & Resource Management Council, 2000
-Western AustraliaRestricted distributionIntroduced Invasive Agriculture & Resource Management Council, 2000

History of Introduction and Spread

Top of page Being xerophytic in nature, T. aphylla is widely planted in arid areas in many countries of Africa and Asia (Troup 1921; National Academy of Sciences, 1980).

In recent years, athel pine spread rapidly and became a very serious weed along the Finke River in central Australia, reportedly after flooding several years ago (Griffin et al., 1989; Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992). The sources of this infestation were traced to plantings at homesteads near the river. According to Agriculture & Resource Management Council (2000) the Griffin et al. (1989) research led to the declaration of this species as a noxious weed under the Northern Territory Noxious Weeds Act (1962) in 1988. It is prohibited from Western Australia, a declared plant in Tasmania, a class B or C noxious weed in Australian Northern Territory and is also mentioned in the South Australia list (National Weeds Strategy Executive Committee, 2003). Invasion events in Australia include outbreaks at the Finke River, Northern Territory, Starvation Lake and Tilcha Flow, South Australia, the Gascoyne and Avon Rivers in Western Australia and lesser occurrences in localized areas of Queensland (Agriculture & Resource Management Council, 2000). Binggeli (1999) describes T. aphylla as 'highly invasive'.

T. aphylla has been widely planted in the southwestern USA and northern Mexico but has increased and spread only in a few locations. The largest is a 285 ha area of a large, dense, monotypic stand of trees beside the southeastern corner of the Salton Sea in southern California, rumoured to have spread from two trees planted at a gas station. Along the lower Colorado River between California and Arizona, and along the lower Rio Grande between Texas and Mexico, it occurs among saltcedars (deciduous Tamarix spp.) and other vegetation, or on sparsely vegetated stream banks where it appears to have spread naturally. Recently, athel has spread extensively along the shores of Lake Mead, between Nevada and Arizona at ca. 36°N. This is at a latitude much farther north and much colder than athel would be expected to grow. Its growth and survival here may be because of the warming influence of this large lake during the winter. Also, these plants may be a hybrid which could confer greater cold tolerance. The recently discovered sexual reproduction and aggressive invasion at Lake Mead makes T. aphylla a threat in other areas of the desert in southwestern USA (Barnes et al., 2004) and possibly also in northern Mexico. According to (USDA-NRCS, 2005) this species is a declared noxious weed in Wyoming, Washington, Montana and New Mexico.

Henderson (2001) states it is a proposed category 3 invader in South Africa. Cronk and Fuller (1995) reports that it is invasive in Australia and Hawaii.

Risk of Introduction

Top of page The high degree of invasiveness demonstrated by this species in Australia, and in other countries such as South Africa and the USA would encourage caution in the use of this species in similar environmental circumstances elsewhere. Where it has already been introduced, its behaviour should be monitored to gain new insights into its ecology and behaviour, and to detect the earliest signs of invasion. The major risk is probably from the introduction of cuttings by tourists for planting as ornamentals.


Top of page T. aphylla, like the deciduous Tamarix species that have become invasive where introduced, grows mainly in riparian habitats: in broad floodplains of rivers, along permanent or intermittent streams, around lakes and reservoirs, and at a depth to water table of 1-5 m; it can also grow (less densely) on upland areas or with its roots out of contact with the water table. It can grow in a wide variety of soils, and in both saline and fresh soils. It does not prefer saline soils but can tolerate salinity, giving it a competitive advantage over most plants which cannot.

Habitat List

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Terrestrial – ManagedManaged forests, plantations and orchards Present, no further details
Managed grasslands (grazing systems) Present, no further details
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Urban / peri-urban areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalNatural forests Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Natural grasslands Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Riverbanks Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Wetlands Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Deserts Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Coastal areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)

Biology and Ecology

Top of page Genetics

T. aphylla is one of only four invasive taxonomic entities that Gaskin and Schaal (2003) could identify by DNA analysis.

Physiology and Phenology

The leaves and branches are shed during the cold season, and new shoots and leaves appear in India during May. According to Troup (1921), the small flowers of T. aphylla appear during May to September on long slender spikes and the capsules ripen in December-January. In some parts of the Punjab and Haryana in the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent, the seed ripens from the middle of July to the middle of November.

In its native range, germination is generally good and natural regeneration is fairly plentiful. The seedlings establish themselves as a jungle-like growth of wildings in low-lying areas or hollows where rainwater collects. The seed loses viability in a few days if stored at ambient temperature.

Providing there is sufficient moisture seeds can germinate almost year-round in Australia (Agriculture & Resource Management Council, 2000). This source notes that most germination occurs during the Australian autumn.

Reproductive Biology

In its native range, T. aphylla produces a large number of seeds, i.e. about 500,000 seeds/year from a single tree (National Academy of Sciences, 1980; Sheikh, 1993). The seeds are minute, about 1000 per gram. A moist soil will also permit vegetative reproduction.

Athel has long been presumed to be sterile in North America and to reproduce only vegetatively. However, the recently invasive population at Lake Mead in southern Nevada, USA, produced seeds over an average of 51 days, with a germination rate of 22% in the laboratory. The trees occupy a zone along the lakeshore above T. ramosissima and below Larrea tridentata where it now forms extensive monospecific stands (Barnes et al., 2004). This appears to be a hybrid population, which may give it greater cold tolerance.

Environmental Requirements

T. aphylla is generally found in arid subtropical and desert regions in ravine thorn scrub forests, desert dune scrub forests and in Salvadora scrub forests. It tolerates temperatures from -10 to 50°C and frequent droughts (National Academy of Sciences, 1980). It survives in areas with annual rainfall of 75-100 mm, but for optimum growth it requires 350-500 mm rainfall which may occur in summer or in both summer and winter. It has been planted on the coasts of North Africa and Israel with annual rainfall of around 200 mm.

The best growth of T. aphylla is in loamy soil, but it is also found on sand as well as on stiff clay and on alkaline, saline and seasonally waterlogged soils (National Academy of Sciences, 1980). It has a high survival rate in saline areas (Malik and Sheikh, 1983; Tomar and Gupta, 1985; Hussain and Gul, 1991) and on saline sodic soils (Sarir et al., 1986; Sharma et al., 1992).

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)
35 0 0 1400

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Absolute minimum temperature (ºC) -10
Mean annual temperature (ºC) 18 28
Mean maximum temperature of hottest month (ºC) 27 40
Mean minimum temperature of coldest month (ºC) 3 8


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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Dry season duration68number of consecutive months with <40 mm rainfall
Mean annual rainfall200500mm; lower/upper limits

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Aceria tlaiae Herbivore Leaves
Chionaspis etrusca Herbivore Leaves/Stems
Colposcenia elegans Herbivore Inflorescence/Leaves
Coniatus indicus Herbivore Leaves
Corimalia atritarsis Herbivore Seeds
Corimalia gyrata Herbivore Seeds
Cryptocephalus faustulus Herbivore Leaves
Cryptocephalus undulatus Herbivore Leaves
Hypophyes aphyllae Herbivore Seeds
Ornativalva erubescens Herbivore Leaves
Ornativalva plutelliformis Herbivore Leaves
Semiothisa streniataria Herbivore Leaves
Steraspis squamosa Herbivore Stems
Teleiodes myricariella Herbivore Leaves
Trabutina serpentina Herbivore Stems
Tuponia concinna Herbivore Leaves

Notes on Natural Enemies

Top of page Large T. aphylla trees are commonly infested by the cerambycid borer Bachydissus holosericeus (Gamble, 1921). Termites attack T. aphylla trees in plantations and cause heavy mortality. Mites cause the formation of galls on the twigs, flowers and flower buds (National Academy of Sciences, 1980).

Beeson (1941) reported the following insect pests of T. aphylla in India and Pakistan: Chionaspis engeddensis (an armoured scale insect, in heavy infestations in plantations of T. aphylla in the Punjab); Trabutina serpentina (a scale insect which feeds on the sap of branchlets); Teleiodes myricariella (a small moth, the larvae of which feed on spun leaves); Cossus acronyctoides (the larvae of this moth bore into living stems). Characoma nilotia is reported to feed on the inflorescences of T. aphylla (Habib, 1980).

The insect herbivores discovered in the exploration for biological control agents were listed for Israel (Gerling and Kugler, 1973) and for Pakistan (Habib and Hassan, 1982). The buprestid Steraspis squamosa is the most damaging. Many of the insects that attack the deciduous saltcedars do not attack, or only lightly attack, T. aphylla. Few of the 325 Tamarix insects reported by Kovalev (1995) from the former USSR, China, southern Asia or the Mediterranean area are listed for T. aphylla.

The following fungi have been recorded on T. aphylla (Zaman et al., 1972): Polyporus calcutensis, Polyporus hispidus, Sirodiplospora tamarici, Teichospora obduceu and Valsaria tamaricis.

Means of Movement and Dispersal

Top of page Natural Dispersal (Non-Biotic)

T. aphylla produces a large number of seeds (about 500,000 seeds/year from a single tree) that are minute, about 1000 per gram, and are blown by the wind or dispersed in water. It can also disperse to a limited extent by the rooting of plant parts that wash downstream in floods.

Vector Transmission (Biotic)

Animal dispersal is possible (Weber, 2003).

Intentional Introduction

Invasive events in Australia, USA and South Africa were associated with intentional introduction. The sale of ornamental plants by nurserymen, and the secondary spread of windblown seeds or cuttings from these plants are significant means of dispersal. Dispersal from plantings for streambank erosion control or for windbreaks has also occurred.

Plant Trade

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Plant parts liable to carry the pest in trade/transportPest stagesBorne internallyBorne externallyVisibility of pest or symptoms
Fruits (inc. pods) seeds Yes
Leaves whole plants
Roots whole plants
Stems (above ground)/Shoots/Trunks/Branches
True seeds (inc. grain) seeds
Plant parts not known to carry the pest in trade/transport
Growing medium accompanying plants
Seedlings/Micropropagated plants

Impact Summary

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Animal/plant collections None
Animal/plant products None
Biodiversity (generally) Negative
Crop production Negative
Environment (generally) Negative
Fisheries / aquaculture Negative
Forestry production Negative
Human health None
Livestock production Negative
Native fauna Negative
Native flora Negative
Rare/protected species Negative
Tourism Negative
Trade/international relations None
Transport/travel None


Top of page When T. aphylla is planted on farmlands, it competes with agricultural crops for sunlight because it is evergreen and its dense branching and foliage do not allow sunlight to pass through. Further, it takes up moisture and nutrients from the soil which could otherwise be utilized by crops. Water consumption of seedlings of this species is very high as compared with other tree species (Raeder-Roitzsch and Masrur, 1969). Their extensive roots also extract all soluble salts from the soil; these are excreted through the glands in the leaves onto the top of the soil in the form of litter or 'tears', thus causing salinization of top soil even in non-saline areas, reducing the growth of nearby plants up to a distance of 50 m (National Academy of Sciences, 1980).

Agriculture & Resource Management Council (2000) report major negative impacts to the central Australian pastoral industry. The impact to the pastoral industry occurs through reduced pasture production, elimination of watering holes as the water table is reduced and the difficulty of herding the animals.

Environmental Impact

Top of page Where it is invasive the root network may have the effect of lowering the water table (Weber, 2003). Its water use is probably similar to saltcedars (the weedy deciduous Tamarix spp.) for the small area it occupies (see T. ramosissima for further details). Unlike other weedy Tamarix spp., however, athel rarely burns and has been used as a firebreak in its native range (National Academy of Sciences, 1980).

Impact: Biodiversity

Top of page By rapid growth, formation of dense thickets and superior competition for water and nutrients, native vegetation may be excluded, as for example in Australia, where native Eucalyptus camaldulensis is outcompeted (Weber, 2003). Only a few Australian grasses and chenopods are able to grow in association with T. aphylla (Agriculture & Resource Management Council, 2000). The change in the composition and structure of the vegetation has negative consequences for Australian birds and mammals such as the loss of nesting sites (Agriculture & Resource Management Council, 2000).

In the USA, athel has had relatively little impact on wildlife because of its infrequency. In hot areas, its size offers welcome shade for wildlife. In the surveys of Anderson and Ohmart (1984) in southern California, nearly all of the summer tanagers were found in athel. However, athel hosts even fewer native insects than does saltcedar (weedy deciduous Tamarix spp.), and populations of the accidentally introduced leafhopper Opsius stactogalus and the scale insect Chionaspis etrusca are far lower than on saltcedars. Luken and Thieret (1997) describe the drying up of springs in Death Valley National Monument, California, with a consequent fall in biodiversity.

Social Impact

Top of page No precise information available but because T. aphylla can form dense thickets it is presumed that access may be impeded.

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Highly adaptable to different environments
  • Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
  • Highly mobile locally
  • Has high reproductive potential
Impact outcomes
  • Damaged ecosystem services
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
  • Negatively impacts agriculture
  • Negatively impacts tourism
  • Reduced amenity values
  • Reduced native biodiversity
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Difficult/costly to control


Top of page T. aphylla is widely planted in arid areas in many countries of Africa and Asia (Troup 1921; National Academy of Sciences, 1980). It can be grown for the stabilization and afforestation of sand dunes (Stevens, 1974; Abohassan et al., 1978; Weinstein and Schiller, 1979) and in shelterbelts and windbreaks (Firmin, 1971; Charfi, 1975; Costin et al., 1976; Dembner, 1987; Calimini et al., 1987). It also grows very well on saline and waterlogged soils where few other trees would grow (Malik and Sheikh, 1983; Tomar and Gupta, 1985; Le-Houerou et al., 1986; Qaisar et al., 1987; Hussain and Gul, 1991; Hafeez, 1993). It is extensively planted on farmlands in the plains of Pakistan (Shah et al., 1991) and India as it can easily be grown from cuttings. Its wood is commonly used as fuel and in rural carpentry in these countries and as a medicinal plant in Pakistan (Khan et al., 2005).

It has been introduced in Australia as a windbreak, hedge plant, and ornamental tree (Griffin et al., 1989). In the desert areas of southwestern USA and northern Mexico, it has been widely planted as a shade tree; it is also sometimes planted as a hedge plant, and pruned frequently. Surveys in Arizona and Texas indicate that it has about the same value as the deciduous Tamarix species as an ornamental, about 0.25% of all yard trees (CJ DeLoach, USDA-ARS, Temple, Texas, USA, unpublished data). Today, it is seldom recommended or planted by nurseries because the limbs are brittle and can break, causing damage.

In North America, it is used less for honey production and colony maintenance than are the saltcedars (deciduous Tamarix spp.) but is preferred as shade for the beehives in the summer because of its large size and more dense shade. It is used much more for windbreaks than are saltcedars because of its larger size and evergreen foliage (Brooks and Dellberg, 1969; Lyles et al., 1984). This usage is apparently declining, because few such new locations are now apparent. In a few locations, it has been used for streambank erosion control but much less than was saltcedar, probably because it does not tend to spread and form dense thickets.

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

Top of page T. aphylla looks superficially like a conifer and may be mistaken for Casuarina.

This species is easily distinguished from the other North American exotic T. ramosissima/T. chinensis (r/c) and T. canariensis/T. gallica (c/g) species/hybrid groups and from T. parviflora. T. aphylla is a large tree (to 20 m tall and 1 m trunk diameter), with distinct long, sparsely branched foliage resembling Casuarina foliage, flowers whitish to pinkish arranged in whorls around the rachis, evergreen, and cold intolerant. Saltcedars in the r/c and c/g species/hybrid groups are smaller (usually 2-5(-10) m tall), with foliage more branched and with bract-like leaves, pink to reddish flowers, deciduous and cold tolerant. T. parviflora is similar in these saltcedar characteristics and in addition has flowers with four petals and stamens, and typically in small inflorescences in clusters along the outer stems that appear before the leaves in the spring.

Prevention and Control

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Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.

Mechanical Control

Weber (2003) reports that small individuals may be dug out providing the roost system is removed to prevent resprouting from suckers. This author also discusses the procedure for felling mature trees, providing herbicides are applied to the remaining stumps to hinder resprouting. Agriculture & Resource Management Council (2000) describe the use of bulldozers for large trees and thickets, again with provision for removing the root system and with care to ensure that removed roots are not subsequently covered with soil (i.e. facilitating conditions for further regeneration). This source also lists a blade ploughing method for the removal of large numbers of seedlings.

Chemical Control

Herbicide combinations such as picloram/2,4-D or triclopyr/2,4-D can be used to hinder resprouting from stumps (Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992; Weber 2003). Agriculture & Resource Management Council (2000) advocate repeated stem injections of herbicide at points not more than 100 mm apart. This source also describes the treatment of basal bark with herbicide as a method particularly useful for immature trees i.e. before a tough bark has developed. Herbicide can be applied directly to the leaves of seedlings/saplings that are less than 2 m tall (Agriculture & Resource Management Council, 2000).

Biological Control

A biological control programme is under development for the weedy, deciduous saltcedars (Tamarix spp.) of the western USA. T. aphylla is becoming weedy at only a few locations there. It is not presently a subject for biological control, although this could change in the future if it becomes a widespread, serious weed as it has in Australia. At present, biological control insects are being selected that do not damage athel or that cause it only slight damage that does not compromise its value as a desert shade tree (of particular importance to Mexico). In cage tests at Temple, Texas, USA, the larvae of the various biotypes of Diorhabda elongata fed on athel almost as well as on saltcedars but the adults oviposited only 20-50% as much on athel. Open-field tests on athel at Kingsville, Texas and Artesia, New Mexico are in progress (A Griffith, USDA-ARS, Temple, Texas, USA, personal communication, 2004).


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GISD/IASPMR: Invasive Alien Species Pathway Management Resource and DAISIE European Invasive Alien Species Gateway source for updated system data added to species habitat list.

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