Invasive Focus: Salt Cedar, Tamarix ramosissima
Introduced as an ornamental from Asia, Salt Cedar invades riparian (streamside) areas throughout the American West. The stems and leaves of mature plants secrete salt, forming a crust above and below ground that inhibits growth of many native species. Salt cedar is also an enormous water consumer. A single large plant can absorb 200 gallons of water a day, although evapotranspiration rates vary based on water availability, stand density, and weather conditions. Salt cedar’s high water consumption further stresses native vegetation by lowering ground water levels and can also dry up springs and marshy areas. Paradoxically, salt cedar infestations can also lead to flooding, as its extensive root system can choke stream beds. Infestations also have detrimental impacts on wildlife. Salt cedar seeds have almost no protein and are too small to be eaten by most animals. In addition, its scale-like leaves offer little suitable forage for browsing animals. Studies indicate that salt cedar is not favored bird habitat. In a study of habitat use by birds along the lower Colorado River, Anderson and Ohmart (1977) found that salt cedar stands supported only 4 species per hundred acres, as opposed to 154 species per hundred acres of native vegetation.
Effective control projects often utilize both mechanical and chemical control methods.
Reference: Department of Ecology