The tamarisk grows as a tree or shrub. Though its trunk is gnarled, the branches are often wandlike, giving the tree a feathery appearance. The evergreen leaves are tiny, scalelike, and pressed close to the branches, so they lose very little moisture by transpiration, enabling the trees to live in desert regions and even on sand dunes. In spring the tree blossoms with spikes of tiny pink or white flowers, which give welcome color to otherwise barren regions. Salt-loving tamarisks will often grow very near the ocean and on salt marshes. Abundant tamarisks along the banks of the Jordan form junglelike thickets that are the habitat of wild animals, and in Bible times they may have helped compose “the proud thickets along the Jordan” where lions once found cover.—Jer 49:19; Zec 11:3.
Though the tamarisk is generally of relatively low height, one kind of tamarisk tree (Tamarix aphylla) sometimes grows to a height of 18 m (60 ft). Abraham is recorded as having planted a tamarisk at Beer-sheba (Ge 21:33), King Saul sat in the shade of a tamarisk at Gibeah (1Sa 22:6), and his bones and those of his sons were buried under a large tamarisk tree in Jabesh-gilead.—1Sa 31:13; compare 1Ch 10:12, where the Hebrew word for “big tree” (ʼe·lahʹ) is used.
Dr. Joseph Weitz, a noted authority on reforestation in Israel, said: “The first tree Abraham put in the soil of Beersheba was a tamarisk. Following his lead, four years ago we put out two million in the same area. Abraham was right. The tamarisk is one of the few trees we have found that thrives in the south where yearly rainfall is less than six inches.”—The Reader’s Digest, March 1954, p. 30.
Another type of tamarisk (Tamarix mannifera), when pierced by a scale insect, exudes drops of honeylike sap that are gathered and sold to pilgrims in some places as “manna.” This has no relation, however, to the manna provided for Israel in the wilderness, since such true manna was miraculously provided and gathered from the ground.—Ex 16:13-15.
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Tamarisk trees are able to live in dry areas like Beer-sheba, where Abraham planted one