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Tamarisk, also called saltcedar, is native to the Middle East but has been introduced to the Southwestern US. With no natural enemies or regulations of its growth, it has expanded and taken over many springs, creeks, and wetlands in the deserts of the southwest. It grows so vigorously it often literally sucks wetlands dry, depriving wildlife of water, and crowding out native vegetation. Its leaves are encrusted with salt, making it useless to most wildlife. As of now there are many efforts to control tamarisk, but it is so widespread that success is far from ensured. A small beetle which eats tamarisk has been released into some areas to control this, but introducing a new organism is always risky. Tamarisk looks like a conifer, except that it has bright pink flowers. It also turns bright colors in the fall and actually is quite scenic, hiding its evil nature.

Tam"a*risk (?), n. [L. tamariscus, also tamarix, tamarice, Skr. tamala, tamalaka, a tree with a very dark bark; cf. tamas darkness: cf. F. tamarisc, tamarix, tamaris.] Bot.

Any shrub or tree of the genus Tamarix, the species of which are European and Asiatic. They have minute scalelike leaves, and small flowers in spikes. An Arabian species (T. mannifera) is the source of one kind of manna.

Tamarisk salt tree, an East Indian tree (Tamarix orientalis) which produces an incrustation of salt.


© Webster 1913.

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