Weed of the Month – June 2014

ATHEL PINE

(Tamarix aphylla)

              (Photos: C.Schultz; tree; close-up showing flower)

This tree was widely planted for its shade in the 1970s, but has now been listed as a “Weed of National Significance”. It is a threat to the pastoral industry, because of its invasiveness (it has already spread along 600 kms of the Finke River of NT), and its ability to dry up waterholes and rivers. It also out-competes native plants which provide food and shelter for birds, reptiles and other animals. The trees can grow to 15m tall. Though not a true pine, the tree does produce dull green leaves similar to pine needles. Light grey trunks of younger trees darken to black as the tree matures. Sprays of pinky-white flowers are followed by bell-shaped fruits containing lots of seeds. These seeds have a built-in parachute … fine hairs, to help the wind spread them. Buried broken branches can also grow into new trees.

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