939 Tamarix parvifloraCommon Names: small-flowered tamarisk, early tamarisk Family: Tamariacaceae (tamarisk Family)
Small-flowered tamarisk is a deep-rooted, wide spreading deciduous shrub or small tree to 15 ft (4.6 m) tall with a similar spread. It has purplish bark and graceful arching greenish purple shoots with scale-like bright green leaves. The foliage looks like it should be evergreen (it isn't), and is similar to that of juniper. The little leaves are 1/8 in (0.3 cm) long with tiny glands that secrete salt, hence the name sometimes seen, "salt cedar." The tiny flowers are rose-pink with four petals, borne in dense clusters about 2 in (5.1 cm) long on branches of the previous year's growth. They appear in early summer and may persist for several weeks.
Tamarix parviflora, the small-flowered tamarisk, is native to southeastern Europe, including Turkey, Crete, Greece and the Balkan states. It occurs naturally in dry, almost desertlike regions, in dry riverbeds, on salty soils inland, and along Mediterranean shores. Small-flowered tamarisk and other species of Tamarix have become naturalized in many areas of the southwestern U.S., replacing native vegetation over more than a million acres of arid lands.
CultureThe salt cedars thrive in dry, infertile soils, and may actually decline if given too much fertilizer and water. Small-flowered tamarisk should be pruned regularly to prevent it from becoming leggy and top-heavy. This species produces flowers on the previous year's growth, and should, therefore, be pruned immediately after blooming. Other species of Tamarix bloom on new growth of the year and can be pruned in winter before new growth starts. Light: Full sun. Moisture: Small-flowered tamarisk is fairly drought tolerant, though not quite so tolerant of drought as other species of tamarisks. This one thrives also in humid environments. Hardiness: USDA Zones 5 - 8. In zones 5 and 6 the young branches are sometimes killed in very cold winters, thus eliminating flowers for the following year. Propagation: Propagate small-flowered tamarisk from greenwood cuttings in summer or from fresh seed, which usually germinates readily in a just a few days.
Tamarisks have bright feathery foliage that is very attractive in summer. They make excellent hedges and windbreaks along the seacoast since they are highly tolerant of salt spray and salty soils. They are also useful along sidewalks and roads that get salted frequently to control winter ice. Small-flowered tamarisk is a useful hedge inland, too, especially on poor, sandy soils. Use in a mixed shrub border for its interesting texture that is fine in summer and coarser in winter when the leaves have dropped.
Don't confuse the tamarisks with American larch (Larix laricinia) which is often called tamarack. The salt cedar that has become a dominant, indeed overpowering, feature in much of the the arid western U.S. is Tamarix ramosissima. Note that the small-flowered tamarisk, Tamarix parviflora, is often sold in the U.S. under the name, T. tetrandra. There are some 50 species of salt cedars, all native to Europe, Africa or Asia. Small-flowered tamarisk differs from other members of the genus in having flowers with four petals and sepals, instead of five, and in blooming on the previous year's growth.
Steve Christman 1/13/02; updated 5/27/04, 9/22/06