Tamarix ramosissima Ledeb. or Tamarix parviflora DC.
Keys to Identification
- Saltcedar is a shrub or tree native to the Mediterranean, China and Central Asia. This plant is found infesting waterways throughout the west. These plants contain salt that they deposit onto the soil through their leaves. Other riparian species are unable to survive the salty conditions and Saltcedar can then become the only plant growing in an area. Some reports show that one acre of Saltcedar can use 7.7 acre feet of water a year (2.8 million gallons).
- Although this plant has been sold as an ornamental in the past, it is no longer allowed to be sold in Colorado.
This information courtesy of the Colorado Natural Areas Program
Family: Tamaricaceae (Tamarisk)
Other Names: tamarisk, salt cedar
USDA Code: TARA, TAPA4
Legal Status: Colorado Noxious Weed List B
Growth form: deciduous, loosely branched shrubs or small trees.
Flower: Flowers are whitish or pinkish and borne on slender racemes 2-5 cm long on the current year’s branches and are grouped together in terminal panicles. Petals are usually retained on the fruit.
Seeds/Fruit: The seeds are borne in a lance-ovoid capsule.
Leaves: Leaves are minute, appressed scaly leaves, alternately arranged.
Stems: Branchlets are slender; plants may reach heights of 15 feet or more.
Roots: The primary root can grow to a depth of up to 30 meters or more (Baum 1978). Plants can develop spreading horizontal roots after reaching the water table. These can spread up to 50 meters and are capable of producing adventitious buds (DiTomaso 1996).
Seedling: No information available
Exotics: None known.
Natives: None known.
Agricultural: No information available.
Ecological: Saltcedar is an aggressive, woody invasive plant species that has become established over as much as a million acres of the western United States (Carpenter 1998). Saltcedar crowds out native stands of riparian and wetland vegetation. It increases the salinity of surface soil rendering the soil inhospitable to native plant species. Saltcedar provides generally lower wildlife habitat value than native vegetation. It uses more water than comparable native plant communities and dries up springs, wetlands, riparian areas and small streams by lowering surface water tables. Saltcedar widens floodplains by clogging stream channels and increases sediment deposition due to the abundance of saltcedar stems in dense stands.
Human: No information available.
Habitat and Distribution
General requirements: Saltcedar grows well on moist sandy, sandy loam, loamy, and clayey soil textures (FEIS 1998). Saltcedar is tolerant of highly saline habitats, and it concentrates salts in its leaves. Over time, as leaf litter accumulates under saltcedar plants, the surface soil can become highly saline, thus impeding future colonization by many native plant species. Saltcedar is not tolerant of shading. Shaded plants have altered leaf morphology and reduced reproduction (FEIS 1998). Saltcedar commonly occurs along floodplains, riverbanks, stream courses, saltflats, marshes, and irrigation ditches in arid regions of the Southwest and the Southern Great Plains (FEIS 1998).
Distribution in Colorado: In Colorado, saltcedar is most commonly found between 3,400 to 7,000 feet (FEIS 1998), but can be found up to 8,000 feet (A. Green, pers. comm.). It is widespread in riparian areas throughout the western United States.
Historical: Introduced to North America for use as ornamental, windbreak, and erosion control trees.
Life cycle: Saltcedar generally flowers in its third year of growth or later, but may flower during the first year (FEIS 1998). Saltcedar buds generally break dormancy in February or March. The flowers are most abundant between April and August, but may be found any time of the year in desert areas. Saltcedar flowered continuously under favorable environmental conditions but the flowers required insect pollination to set seed. Seedlings grow slowly and require saturated soils throughout the first 2-4 weeks of growth (FEIS 1998). Ideal conditions for first-year survival are saturated soil during the first few weeks of life, a high water table, and open sunny ground with little competition from other plants.
Mode of reproduction: Reproduces by seeds as well as vegetatively. Saltcedar sprouts from the root crown and rhizomes, and adventitious roots sprout from submerged or buried stems (FEIS 1998). This allows saltcedar to produce new plants vegetatively following floods from stems torn from the parent plants and buried by sediment.
Seed production: A mature saltcedar plant can produce 600,000 minute seeds annually (FEIS 1998).
Seed bank: Seeds are viable for up to 45 days under ideal conditions during summer, and can complete germination within 24 hours following contract with water (Carpenter 1998). Saltcedar seeds had no dormancy or after-ripening requirements.
Dispersal: The seeds are readily dispersed by wind and water.
Integrated Management Summary
Saltcedar is native of Eurasia that was introduced as an ornamental and stream bank stabilizer. It is a pioneer species that establishes on freshly exposed alluvium, sand and gravel bars, and streambanks or other floodplains after disturbance (FEIS 1998). Once established it often occurs in pure stands, persisting indefinitely in the absence of disturbance (FEIS 1998). It can replace or displace native woody species, such as cottonwood, willow and mesquite, which occupy similar habitats, especially when timing and amount of peak water discharge, salinity, temperature, and substrate texture have been altered by human activities. Saltcedar produces massive quantities of small seeds and can propagate from buried or submerged stems.
Saltcedar can be controlled by five principal methods: 1) applying herbicide to foliage of intact plants; 2) removing aboveground stems by burning or mechanical means followed by foliar application of herbicide to resprouts; 3) cutting stems close to the ground followed by application of herbicide to the cut stems; 4) spraying basal bark with herbicide; and 5) digging or pulling plants (Carpenter 1998).
Selecting an appropriate control method involves considering the size of the area where saltcedar is to be controlled, restrictions on the use of particular herbicides or herbicides generally, the presence or absence of desirable vegetation where saltcedar is growing, the presence or absence of open water, adjacent land uses that might restrict prescribed burning, and the availability and cost of labor (Carpenter 1998).
Baum, B. 1967. Introduced and naturalized tamarisks in the United States and Canada (Tamaricaceae). Baileya 15:19-25.
Carpenter, A.T. 1998. Element Stewardship Abstract for Tamarisk. The Nature Conservancy Wildland Weed Database. Internet 2/9/99.
DiTomaso, J.M. 1996. Identification, biology, and ecology of salt cedar. Pp. 4-8 In: Proceedings of the saltcedar management workshop. June 12, 1996 Rancho Mirage, CA.
FEIS - Fire Effects Information System [Online] (1996, September). Prescribed Fire and Fire Effects Research Work Unit, Rocky Mountain Research Station (producer), US Forest Service. www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/ [1998,March 12]
Frasier, G.W., and T.N. Johnsen Jr. 1991. Saltcedar (Tamarisk) Classification, Distribution, Ecology and Control. Noxious Range Weeds. Boulder: Westview Press. pp. 3777-3784
Whitson, T.D.(ed.), L.C. Burrill, S.A. Dewey, D.W. Cudney, B.E. Nelson, R.D. Lee, R. Parker. 1996. Salt cedar. Weeds of the West.
Western Society of Weed Science, in cooperation with the Western United States Land Grant Universities Cooperative Extension Services, Newark CA. pg. 584.