Athel pine

Athel pine is a declared Class A and Class B weed

For more information about declaration zones, including maps, get the athel pine management plan (1.8 mb).

It is also a Weed of National Significance. For more information go to the Weeds of National Significance website.

Another name for this plant is Tamarix aphylla.

Athel pine - infestation

Identification

You should use this as a guide. There may be other plants or weeds that look similar.

If you are unsure, contact the Weed Management Branch.

Habit

These features describe the habit of this plant:

  • large, spreading tree
  • up to 18m tall
  • not a true pine or conifer
  • flowering plant
  • strong woody roots which penetrate soil and spread deeply.

Athel pine - habit 

Stems and branches

These features describe the stems and branches:

  • trunk - rough, dark brown bark
  • stems - grey-brown bark
  • trunk to 1m diameter
  • pendulous and hanging branches
  • salt secreting glands
  • strong woody roots which penetrate soil and spread deeply.

Athel pine - stems and branches 

Leaves

These features describe the leaves:

  • foliage looks like pine needles
  • tiny leaves attached to needles are 1mm to 2mm long.

Athel pine - leaves 

Flowers

These features describe the flowers:

  • tiny
  • white or pink
  • arranged in dense spiral clusters
  • they first appear after the plant is three years of age and every summer after that.

Athel pine - flowers 

Fruit and seeds

These features can identify the fruit and seeds:

  • 3mm long bell-shaped capsules which contain even smaller seeds
  • capsules contain cylindrical seeds
  • seeds are covered with a tuft of fine hairs.

Athel pine - fruit and seeds 

Similar looking plants

The following plant species look similar to athel pine:

Tamarisk ramosissima has invaded many arid land reserves in the United States and is also a potential invader of streams and marshes in Australia. It only grows to about half the size of athel pine.

Casuarinas or she-oaks are very similar in appearance to athel pine, however they have hard, woody fruit like mini pine cones and lack true flowers.

Impact

Athel pine can have all of the following impacts:

  • form monocultures that rapidly displace native vegetation
  • displace iconic river red gums and coolabah trees
  • extract salt from the soil and causes salinisation up to 50m away
  • only allow salt-tolerant herbs or grasses to grow
  • reduce grazing areas
  • not provide nectar or hollows for nesting native animals
  • lower the water table
  • dry up waterholes
  • add to sedimentation
  • change the course of rivers.

Habitat and distribution

Athel pine is native to northern Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, Iran and India.

It was introduced to Australia around 1930 from California as a shade tree.

The first plantings were at Whyalla and Broken Hill and it has since been planted extensively around New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia and the Barkly Tableland and Alice Springs regions of the Northern Territory (NT).

In the NT athel pine has invaded the Finke River, the largest river system of Central Australia, and extends for 600km along this watercourse.

Spread prevention

Athel pine seeds are distributed by wind, but a more common method of dispersal is for broken branches carried by flood water to produce new plants.

You can prevent the spread of athel pine by doing all of the following:

  • destroy all isolated athel pines including homestead and shade plantings (except where there is a valid permit to retain)
  • map infestations to help develop a management plan
  • control minor infestations, isolated outbreaks or seedlings first
  • designate wash down areas and actively work to prevent contamination of clean areas
  • monitor areas that you have treated and watch for re-infestations.

Athel pine - spread 

Control

Chemical control

Large, established athel pine trees are difficult to control. Large trees can be cut off at ground level followed by herbicide application to the stump. The tree should then be taken away from any drainage area and burnt.

Chemical and concentration Rate Weed growth, stage and methods
Fluroxypyr 333 g/L
Starane® Advanced - plus other registered products
600ml / 100L waterFoliar spray for seedlings less than 50cm tall
Triclopyr 600 g/L
Garlon® 600 - plus other registered products

1L / 100L water
1L / 60L diesel

For juveniles 50cm to 2m in height:

  • foliar spray
  • cut stump/basal bark/foliar spray application

These chemicals and rates are specified by APVMA permit PER81696 which allows minor use of an agvet chemical product to control seedlings athel pine in non-crop areas in and near dry ephemeral waterways. The permit expires on 30 November 2020. 

Don't contaminate streams, rivers or waterways with the chemical or used container. 

Withholding Period: Garlon 600 Herbicide (or equivalent): Not required when used as directed. Fluroxypyr products: Don't graze or cut for stock food for seven days after application.

Non-chemical control

Hand pulling and grubbing

Weeds, including their roots, are physically pulled out of the ground by hand or using hand tools. 

This is an effective method of control for individual weeds and recent outbreaks that haven’t released seeds yet, but it requires a lot of labour.

Bulldozing

Bulldozers, chopper rollers or graders are used to clear large weed infestations. This leaves large areas of soil exposed so follow up control or revegetation should be considered.

Fire

Fire as a management technique is most effective when it is used together with other methods. It is useful for mass seedling control if there is a sufficient fuel load.

Last updated: 27 June 2017