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A group of shrubs or small trees, natives of the Old World, and often inhabiting maritime situations or places where the soil is permeated with saline substances. Some half a dozen species are grown in British gardens, all distinguished by the feathery character of their branches, the minute scale-like leaves resembling those of some junipers, and the small flowers crowded on short racemes. There are few genera of shrubs whose nomenclature is more obscure and involved, many of the species needing microscopical examination for their identification. The flowers have four or five sepals and the same number of petals. Stamens, in the cultivated species, four or five, opposite the sepals, inserted on or between the lobes of a disk, which surrounds the base of the ovary. Styles short, three or four. Fruit a capsule; seeds numerous, with a tuft of hairs at one end. The latest revision of the genus is: B. R. Baum, A Monographic Revision of the Genus Tamarix, Jerusalem, 1966. See also, by the same author, Tamarix in Flora Europaea, Vol. 2 (1968), pp. 292-4; and in Baileya, Vol. 15 (1967), pp. 19-25.
The tamarisks are easily cultivated, and none of them appears to find the peculiar conditions under which they occur wild essential, although perhaps they do not thrive so well in their absence. Although some of them come from hot, dry regions, the saline substances which are absorbed by the plant in such places prevent excessive transpiration. But when these are absent from the soil, and nature’s safeguard against too great a loss of moisture no longer exists, a more regular supply of moisture at the root becomes necessary. This simply means that in inland districts they need a fairly good, deep loam. No shrubs are more easily propagated than these. It is only necessary to make cuttings of the previous summer’s wood about the thickness of a lead pencil and, say, 8 in. long, and place them in the open ground in early winter, burying about two-thirds of the cutting. On the south coast of England, where hedges are often made of T. gallica or T. africana, the process consists of simply cutting out pieces the length and thickness of a stout walking-stick, sharpening them at one end, and driving them in the ground where the hedge is to be.
For exposed seaside places there are few shrubs so beautiful and so conveniently managed as the tamarisks. In gardens the late summer or autumn flowering species may be cut back every February if it be desirable to keep them low.