Saltcedar is the common name for several introduced species of shrubs in the Tamarix family. Saltcedar, a native of Eurasia was first introduced into the U.S. to reclaim eroded areas and prevent further loss of stream banks, primarily in the southwest. It has been sold in the horticultural industry, primarily for its wide adaptability and pink flowers.
Saltcedar can quickly become a monoculture along lakes and waterways. In the early morning and evening, moisture with high salt content is exuded from the foliage, causing the soil to become saline. Saltcedar can choke waters and even has dried up entire lakes. Native riparian species are quickly displaced by saltcedar, which in turn causes displacement of native birds and animals that generally do not feed on the leaves or eat the seeds. Saltcedar, even in the seedling stage, will tolerate short-term flooding and can establish away from waterways when seeds are washed in during flooding. Once established, plant stands can become so thick that cattle will not graze the area.
Saltcedar is a shrubby bush or tree that can range in size form 5 to 20 feet tall. The bark is a reddish brown, especially on younger branches. The leaves are small and flat, resembling evergreen shrubs such as arborvitae. Flowers are pink to white and five-pedaled, and appear from mid to late summer. The seeds are extremely tiny and similar in size and color to pepper grains. Each seeds has a pappus which allows ti to float long distances in water or move in the wind. Seeds are short-lived and usually germinate within a few months after dispersal.
Control on non-crop lands:
Prevention is the best method to keep saltcedar from invading North Dakota wetlands and wild lands. Scouting along waterways and removal of ornamental plantings have been effective in reducing the spread in North Dakota.
Chemical: Arsenal is the most widely used herbicide to control saltcedar. Do not remove saltcedar top growth for three years following herbicide applications or resprouting will occur.
Cultural: Control methods such as burning or bulldozing have not been successful.
Biological: The leaf beetle Diorhabda elongata Brulle defoliates the leaves of saltcedar, which slowly reduces plant vigor. Success of control has not been consistent. It has not been released in North Dakota because of the small size of plants and low infestation level.