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Athel Tamarisk

Tamarix aphylla

Photo © by Michael Plagens

This Athel Tree in the Sta. Cruz Flats, Pinal Co., Arizona, is about the only thing green for miles around. During the blazing hot summer it also offers the only shade. Nov. 2009.

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This very large tree and evergreen relative of the usual Salt Cedar seems to defy the desert. The leaves are scale-like and the small, pink flowers appear in racemes. Look for it on flood plains along the major rivers in the Lower Sonoran Desert, near irrigation areas, and as a shade tree in the urban areas. This is an exotic native to Asia and Africa.

deeply fissured and fibrous bark of Athel green twigs and scale-like leaves of Athel

The heavey branches often break in storms then root where they fall forming thickets. The thick bark is fire-resistant - trees often bare scars of past fire events. The dense shade offers refuge for wildlife - Barn Owls especially seem to favor roosting in the dense foliage.

Tamaricaceae -- Tamarisk Family

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Copyright Michael J. Plagens, 1999-2009