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Salt Cedar

Tamarix Aphylla  • 

Family: Tamaricaceae 

General description

Tamarix aphylla is a fast growing, moderate sized evergreen tree, up to 18 m high with erect tapering trunk, 60-80 cm dbh with many stout spreading purplish brown and smooth branches. Twigs drooping, wiry or needle-like, up to 1.5 mm diameter, jointed, older twigs greenish-brown, hairless, mostly shedding. Bark light grey-brown or reddish-brown, rough, becoming thick and deeply furrowed into long narrow hard ridges. A deep and extensive root system, about 10 m vertically and 34 m horizontally. Leaves bluish-green, alternate, reduced to tiny scales ensheathing wiry twigs and ending in points, hairless, often with epidermal salt glands each forming a joint along the twig.

Flowers many, nearly stalkless, tiny, whitish-pink, in racemes 3-6 mm long, 4-5 mm broad at end of twigs, drooping. Fruit a small capsule, many, narrow, pointed, 5 mm long, splitting into 3 parts. Seeds many, 0.5 mm long, brown, each with tuft of whitish hairs 3 mm long. The specific name means without leaves.

Reproductive Biology
The leaves and branchlets are shed during the cold season, the new shoots and leaves appear about May. The species is monoecious and the small pinkish flowers appear from May to July, and capsules ripen in the cold season. In some parts of India, the seeds ripen in the middle of July to middle November. Ripe capsules turn brown, gradually open up and the seed is blown away.

Plant requirements

Tamarix Aphylla can tolerate high levelsof salinity and sodicity. It is a common tree of salt-affected wastelands. It is a versatile species which grows well on drained sandy soils. It is native to Pakistan and the Middle East. It can stand prolonged drought and temperatures up to 50°C It grows well with an annual rainfall of 300-500 millimetres. It prefers arid to hot subtropical winter monsoon conditions.

Maintenance

Young seedlings should be protected from grazing. Drastic thinning is done when the plants have attained over two years of growth to (30) 37-50 plants/ha. Pruning is necessary to prevent development into a shrub with many weak main stems which are subject to splitting and breaking off at ground level. 

Propagation and management
Tamarix Aphylla can be easily propagated through nursery- raised seedlings, stem cuttings and root suckers. It reproduces well naturally in the field.
The viability of the recalcitrant seed in open storage is very low, perhaps not more than 1 week, each day of storage diminishes the germinative capacity and therefore success could only be achieved with the immediate sowing. 
Seeds are small and are mixed with ash or sand for sowing in nursery beds. For plantations into saline-sodic soils, cuttings should be planted into and established in plastic bags (in a manner similar to seedlings), and then transplanted into the field once they have been hardened . Plants are established in rows 3 metres
apart, with plants at 2 metres apart within the rows. Under natural conditions, the crop is harvested in a 20- year rotation. However, under irrigated conditions, this time can be reduced to 10-12 

Practical use

Value as a fuelwood, as a timber, as a shelter plant and as firebreaks (the salty tears excretes from the leaves tend to kill all vegetation under the tree)

Properties

Height
900 - 1000 cm
Color
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Soil type
Sand
Sunlight
Full sun
Moisture
Well-drained
Hardiness
Hardy