Bible Plants – Tamarisk

by Liliana Usvat

I got this tree in my backyard. And it is beautiful. It is 10 m high.


Tamarisk (also known as salt cedar) is a deciduous shrub or small tree from Eurasia. Tamarisk can grow as high as 25 feet tall. The bark on saplings and young branches is purplish or reddish-brown. Leaves are scale-like, alternate, with salt-secreting glands. Flowers are small and the petals are reddish, pinkish,h or white. Each plant can p     tamarisk2233

Produce as many as 500,000 seeds annually. The seeds are dispersed by wind, water, and animals. Seeds are small with a tuft of hair attached to one end enabling them to float long distances by wind and water. Seeds are short-lived and can germinate within 24 hours after dispersal, sometimes while still floating on the water.


Tamarisk grows in dense, nearly impenetrable thickets. It also is well-adapted to alkaline (salty) soils.



It is also a phreatophyte (or a plant that mines the water table). Studies have shown that a mature tamarisk can uptake nearly 200 gallons of water a day.

  • The tamarisk is used as an ornamental shrub, a windbreak, and a shade tree.
  • Plans are being made for the tamarisk to play a role in anti-desertification programs in China.


  • Tamarix aphylla (Athel tree) The tree is commonly used for windbreaks on the edge of agricultural fields and as a shade tree in the deserts of the Southwestern United States.


Cultural history

In Genesis 21:33, Abraham is recorded to have “planted a tamarisk at Beer-sheba”. He had built a well there, earlier.


In 1 Samuel 22:6, Saul is sitting under a tamarisk tree on a hill at Gibeah when he learns that David has returned to Judah.


In the Quran 34:16, the people of Saba were punished when “[Allah] converted their two garden (rows) into gardens producing bitter fruit and tamarisks …”


In Egyptian Mythology, the body of Osiris is hidden for a time in a tamarisk tree in Byblos, until it was retrieved by Isis.

Wedgwood made a “Tamarisk” China pattern.


According to the New Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology, the tamarisk plant is a favorite of the Greek god Apollo.


Beersheba is the only place that the Bible recorded Abraham planting trees. Today there is still an ancient well located at, or near, this site called Abraham’s well and tamarisk trees grow in the area.


Why did Abraham plant a tamarisk? Trees were often used as memorials for great men. It is therefore appropriate that Abraham should honor God by planting the tamarisk. It would be a permanent memorial of the covenant between the two.

Most botanists and Christian scholars are unanimous in their agreement that the trees that Abraham planted were the Tamarix aphylla. It is also called the athel pine, and athel tree.  The tamarisk is a commonly occurring tree in the Middle East and probably originated in semi-arid to arid northern Africa and western Asia. It is evergreen tree and can reach a height of 50 feet.

The tree grows needles rather than leaves; Aphylla means “without leaves.” Tiny segments on athel pine needles are often less than 1/8 inch long. The gray-green needles appear to wilt or hang down from the stems. Often needles excrete salt on their surfaces which give the needles a white color.

Because the T. aphylla excretes salt, it is sometimes called a “salt cedar.” The tamarisk tree provides shade and a pleasant coolness.  At night, moisture increases in the cool air (Hareuveni, 1989).

Water vapor adheres to the salt particles excreted on branches and needles and forms droplets. In the morning tiny droplets of water appear on the thin branches. As the morning sun warms the air, the water droplets evaporate and cool the tree and the shade below it.

The water droplets are most plentiful after a humid night and generally evaporate before noon.

The tamarisk trees are unusual in that they produce a substance called manna, although there is some debate as to whether this is produced by the tree in response to attacks by insects, or whether the sticky sweet substance is produced by the insects. Some say the tree is the source of the Biblical manna which the Israelites of the Bible (Exodus) were sent by God. However this is strongly refuted by many clerics.

The manna, galls from the trees and the wood have all been used in medicine in a variety of countries.The Tuareg In Niger use the manna to sweeten water.


  • The French tamarisk has been used for its astringent qualities, and notably the galls contain 40 per cent tannin, so
  • it has been used to treat diarrhoea and dysentery,
  • to staunch the flow of blood from wounds and speed up the healing process, and as a laxative.
  • It also has antimicrobial properties, so is good for cleaning wounds.
  • Extracts have been found to have a positive effect on the liver’s functioning and it seems that
  • the tree possesses anti-inflammatory properties, as traditionally
  • it has been used externally to bring relief from the pains and swellings of rheumatism. 
  • Used internally an infusion is said to boost the immune system so it can ward off colds and flu and other infections.
  • This is what Nicholas Culpeper wrote about it in his 17th century Herball:-“Government and virtues. A gallant Saturnine herb it is.
  • The root, leaves, young branches, or bark boiled in wine, and drank,
  • stays the bleeding of the hæmorrhodical veins,
  • the spitting of blood, the too abounding of women’s courses, the jaundice, the cholic, and the biting of all venomous serpents, except the asp; and outwardly applied, is very powerful against the hardness of the spleen, and the tooth-ache, pains in the ears, red and watering eyes.
  • The decoction, with some honey put thereto, is good to stay gangrenes and fretting ulcers, and to wash those that are subject to nits and lice.
  • Alpinus and Veslingius affirm, that the Egyptians do with good success use the wood of it to cure the French disease, as others do with lignum vitæ or *guaiacum; and give it also to those who have the leprosy,
  • scabs,
  • ulcers, or the like.
  • Its ashes doth quickly heal blisters raised by burnings or scaldings.
  • It helps the dropsy, arising from the hardness of the spleen, and therefore to drink out of cups made of the wood is good for splenetic persons.
  • It is also helpful for melancholy, and the black jaundice that arise thereof.
  • The small branches and leaves have astringent and diuretic properties and
  • externally a compress of the leaves and twiglets will staunch bleeding.
  • Extracts from the tree are used in traditional medicine in Italy to get rid of warts, and in other parts of Europe it was a remedy for ridding the gastro-intestinal tract of worms.
  • As for Tamarisk aphylla, it possesses similar medicinal properties and the flower galls are used in traditional medicine for their astringent properties and as a gargle. A decoction of the bark is used for eczema and other skin complaints.

Trees are used to help to prevent soil erosion because of their deep root systems. They do not take well to trimming however and so are not ideal for a garden hedge.

It can be used externally or internally.

  • Tamarisk fruit oil is good for curing diseases such as gastric and duodenal ulcer,
  • circulatory and
  • hepatic diseases,
  • diarrhea,
  • rheumatism, and many more.
  • It is also used in case of alcoholism,
  • stress,
  • asthenia,
  • anemia,
  • hypertension,
  • gingivitis, etc.
  • It can also have a significant effect against depression, parkinson,
  • tumors,
  • mouth problems,
  • flu,
  • intoxications and
  • even leukemia.
  • They are considered to be good anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, astringent and anti-cancer agents.
  • It is also used for curing liver diseases.

Tamarisk oil can keep the cholesterol level under control.

  • We must also know the fact that the anti-inflammatory,
  • cicatrizing and
  • antibiotic properties are also contained by the bark of the tamarisk tree.
  • Tamarisk buds used as tincture are an excellent anti-aging remedy. They can also have an aphrodisiac effect. The fruit and its products are used both in the food and the non-food industries.

The fruits have a sweet-sour taste and they can be eaten as such or mixed with honey. They can also be used for making tea, for cookies, and so on. Just one teaspoon of tamarisk with a little bit of honey everyday before breakfast can work wonders for our system.

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About lilianausvat Reforestation:
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2 Responses to Bible Plants – Tamarisk

  1. Cee says:

    Useful.local name in Ghana?

  2. Ismael kiprotich Bett says:

    we should take the responsibility given to our fore father’s Adam to protect and maintain the environment by planting trees for human sustenabilty and life Abraham showed up a good example in Genesis 21:33

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