Last Updated: Spring 2012
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Home Range/U.S. Introduction:
The genus Tamarix consists of about 50 species in the Old World, several of which are cultivated in the United States as ornamentals (Correll and Johnston 1970; Correll and Correll 1975). Salt cedar also is sometimes planted as a wind break and for stabilizing sand and sandy soils. Species of salt cedar are very much alike, and in many instances difficult to distinguish without examining minute characteristics of the flowers under high magnification (20X). According to Baum (1967), the most common species of Tamarix in the United States are T. chinensis Lour. (Chinese tamarisk), T. parviflora DC., T. ramosissima Ledeb., T. gallica L. (salt cedar), T. africana Poir., and T. aphylla (L.) Karst. If species determination is required, a regional flora manual or Baum (1967) should be consulted.
U.S. Range Map:
USDA, NRCS. 2012. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, 18 June 2012). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.
The species of Tamarix are shrubs or small trees with irregularly spreading-ascending, elongate branches with leafy branchlets that are very slenderly flexuous. The leaves are alternate, small, scale-like, a few millimeters long, sessile, broadest basally and more or less clasping or sheathing. Leaves are usually deciduous but may persist through mild winters. Flowers are small, short-pediceled or sessile with 4 or 5 pink or white petals inserted under a staminal disk. The fruit is a capsule that opens into 3 to 5 valves. Seeds are minute, densely bearded, or rarely winged.
Some species of salt cedar resemble opposite or whorled-leaved Juniperus (juniper or redcedar) but can be distinguished by the alternate leaves of Tamarix.
Several species of Tamarix have become naturalized along rivers, streams, irrigation ditches, around lakes, coastal areas, salt flats, and waste places. Salt cedar can tolerate saline and alkaline conditions and is often found in such areas.
These trees and shrubs provide shade and are excellent providers of nectar, which is important in the production of honey. However, in many regions they have become a serious problem because they form extensive stands and cause great water loss. In some areas of the southwestern United States and California, native plant communities have been displaced and desert wetlands have been desiccated. Native vegetation on some islands of the Gulf also has been eliminated or greatly reduced by the abundance of salt cedar (Duncan & Duncan 1988).
Baum, B. R. 1967. Introduced and naturalized tamarisks in the United States and Canada (Tamaricaceae). Baileya 15:19-25.Correll, D. S. and H. B. Correll. 1975. Aquatic and Wetland Plants of Southwestern United States. Stanford University Press, Stanford, California.
Correll, D. S. and M. C. Johnston. 1970. Manual of the Vascular Plants of Texas. Texas Research Foundation, Renner, Texas.
Duncan, W.H. and M.D. Duncan. 1988. Trees of the Southeastern United States. The University of Georgia Press, Athens, Georgia.