Athel pine

Native to northern Africa and Asia, athel pine was introduced to Queensland for shade, shelter and erosion control, but can escape cultivation and naturalise, especially around riverine habitats. Infestations can drain waterholes, concentrate salt, and change river flow patterns.

Athel pine is a restricted invasive plant under the Biosecurity Act 2014.

Scientific name

Tamarix aphylla


  • Spreading tree up to 15m tall with pendulous, jointed branches.
  • Immature trees have light grey trunks and stems.
  • Mature trees have thick, rough, dark-grey to black bark, grey-brown stems, and can be up to 1m in diameter.
  • Leaves are dull green and resemble pine needles.
  • Flowers are small, pinkish-white, no stalks, grow on spikes 30-40mm long.
  • Fruit is bell-shaped with a hairy tuft containing numerous small cylindrical seeds.
  • Seeds have tuft of fine hairs to assist dispersal.
  • Roots are strong, woody, deep in soil.


  • Resists drought.
  • Grows well in arid and semi-arid rangelands.
  • Grows best near or in rivers in sandy soil environments.


  • Naturalised in all mainland states and territories except Victoria.
  • Queensland outbreaks have occurred in the Burnett, Darling Downs, north-west and central regions.

Life cycle

  • Reproduces via seed or propagation of plant parts.
  • Seeds germinate throughout the year.
  • A single tree produces thousands of seeds each year.
  • Flowering begins in the third year, then annually during summer.

Affected animals

  • Grazing stock
  • Cattle



  • Consumes water more quickly than native plants, reducing number and quality of waterholes.
  • Concentrates and excretes salt, making ground salty, excluding salt-sensitive plants.
  • Changes river flow patterns.
  • Causes overland flooding and bank erosion.


  • Affects pastoral industry by forming dense stands along inland rivers.


  • Reduces cultural and aesthetic value of affected land.

How it is spread

  • Seeds spread by wind, water and animals.


  • Control is difficult and costly, so prevent new infestations.
  • Take care using mechanical or herbicide control around waterways.

See the Weeds of National Significance Weed management guide for athel pine for information on control.

Biological control

  • No known biological control agent in Australia, although a beetle is proving effective in the USA.

Legal requirements

  • Athel pine is a restricted invasive plant under the Biosecurity Act 2014.
  • It must not be given away, sold, or released into the environment without a permit.
  • The Act requires everyone to take all reasonable and practical steps to minimise the risks associated with invasive plants and animals under their control. This is called a general biosecurity obligation (GBO).
  • At a local level, each local government must have a biosecurity plan that covers invasive plants and animals in its area. This plan may include actions to be taken on certain species. Some of these actions may be required under local laws. Contact your local government for more information.

Further information