Home >> Encyclopedia Americana, Volume 26 >> Swordfish to Tanning >> Tamarisk

Tamarisk

leaves, branches and plants

TAMARISK, any member of the genus Tamarix, which is represented by shrubs, also called "flowering cypress,* inhabiting warm arid regions, but not hardy in America as far north as Massachusetts. They are salt-loving plants, often growing so near the sea that the spray of high breakers dashes over them, and are.

therefore, admirable for maritime planting. Like some other plants living near salt-water, or on arid steppes, certain species of Tamarix bear foliage with a punctate appearance, caused by minute pits. These leaves excrete saline solutions, which in rainless seasons serve to attract moisture during the cool nights, and facilitate its absorption by special cells at the bottom of the tiny cavities. In the daytime, the dried salts cover the leaves with a crust, which protects the plants from excessive evaporation under the desert sun. The tama risk salt-tree (T. arliculata) of the Indo Chinese region is a bush or small tree looking somewhat like a conifer, which secretes enough salt to be useful in a culinary way; it is also the source of tamarisk-galls employed for medi dne and for dyeing, since they contain 50 per cent of tannin; also an astringent bark.

Tamarisks are generally planted for orna ment but are sometimes killed in hard winters quite to the ground. They are of unusual feathery aspect, with widely spreading, some what wand-like branches, crowded with small leaves like scales. In the axils of these are many dormant branch-buds, so that the plant readily sends out new shoots. The flowers are small and pink, in close spike-like racemes which are often panicled, and are softened by the many protruding stamens. One of the most widely known (T. gallica) reaches 15 or 20 feet in height, with panicled racemes bloom ing in late summer; it is very easily propagated and furnishes good fire-wood. A species of the Levant (T. mannifera) when punctured by a scale-insect (Coccus manniferus) exudes honey like drops of sap that harden in the morning coolness; this is gathered and sold to Syrian pilgrims as manna (q.v.). The German tama risk is Myricaria germanica. It has wand-like branches, bluish foliage, and many racemes of light pink flowers, terminating lateral branches.