Tamarix: One of the Dirty Dozen

Pretty, isn’t it? Tamarix ramosissima, also known as tamarisk or saltcedar, is blooming with extra vigor here and there around the city. When not in bloom, it looks unassuming, and sparsely feathered – as if a shrub had disguised itself as asparagus fern.

Tamarix in flower. The larger view.
Tamarix in flower. The larger view.

Don’t be fooled. I used to wonder why it wasn’t more widely planted. Now I know that tamarisk is one of the Nature Conservancy’s Dirty Dozen most invasive ornamental plants – and one of the World Conservation Union’s 100 worst alien invaders.

Already a big problem south of the border, the threat hasn’t yet reached Ontario, from what I can see. However, western provinces such as Manitoba (see link above) and Alberta are issuing warnings. Most at risk are areas with ample water, such as riverbanks, as the tamarisk has a wicked thirst – up to 750 litres (200 gallons) per day. That’s per day.

The tamarisk shrub or tree produces salt secretions that make growing conditions inhospitable to other plants. In that way, it muscles out native riparian species.

A quick Google search shows that Tamarix is still available for purchase in local nurseries. As pretty as these frothy flowers are, I’d think twice before buying.


  1. Helen thanks for the heads up. There are so many invasive plants one needs to be aware of,this one sounds particularly nasty.

  2. Last month in California, in Death Valley, I asked locals about their beautiful huge trees. They told me those were saltcedars. They looked very attractive. Then, I read someone's post about their invasiveness, and now – yours. I wish they were not bad guys…

  3. Thanks for coming by, everyone. I didn't realize what a potential thug tamarisk was, either, till I starting doing my research. In fact, I'd intended to write: what a lovely, underused shrub!

    But as Gail says, it's one thirsty plant. I still can't get over it. No wonder it usually looks so underfed in many gardens.

  4. Of course you're spot on!
    Yet there it was, blooming like a gorgeous babe at the Chelsea Physic Garden.
    Now I'm posting pics of it, despite knowing the down side, and there are quite a few down sides to this stunning tree when in bloom.
    Of course it's stirring up controversy because I failed to declare the invasive nature as well as the mess it can make.
    Have seen it in some great gardens, but I agree, it should be banned…. Sigh!!!

  5. We purchased 2 of these plants 3yrs. ago in PEI. Every summer they look dead. I have to make myself leave them alone and not dig them up, they look so dead. In May they have a few flowers on the old branches but they never totally bloom. Then late July all the original branches have died off and I finally pruned them away, then they start to come back from the main root. What am I doing wrong ?? They never grow past 1-2 ft. high. I don't care if they are invasive, I have lots of room for them. I LOVE their pink color. HELP !!

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