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Pest Information
Common Name: Saltcedar
Family Name: Tamaricaceae (Tamarisk Family)
Latin Name: Tamarix ramosissima Ledeb.
Other Names: tamarisk, pink cascade tamarisk, summer glow tamarisk, rosea tamarisk, smallflower tamarisk, Chinese tamarisk, tamarix spp.
Provincial Designation: Prohibited noxious
Life Cycle: Perennial
Mode of Spread: Seed, Vegetative

Detailed Information
Provincial Situation: Saltcedar is currently found in ornamental plantings throughout the province under the name “Pink Cascade” and “Summer Glow”.  Monitoring has not revealed any infestations escaping from those ornamental plantings or invading from Montana to date.
Key Characteristics: Tall deciduous shrubs or small trees growing to 4.5 m in height. 
Flowers are small pink to white dense masses on long spikes at the end of twigs.
Bark of young branches is smooth and reddish-brown, becoming furrowed and purplish-brown with age.
Leaves are scale-like, bluish-green, very small and overlap each other along the stem.
Similar Species: Several species of Tamarix (including T. ramosissima, T. pentandra, T. chinensis, T. parviflora)
were introduced to North America. Species identification is difficult because some of the species are very similar in appearance and hybridization is common.
Saltcedar is a spreading, deciduous shrub or small tree. It grows from 1.5 to 7.0 metres tall forming dense thickets. Branches are numerous; slender, with small, alternate, greyish-green overlapping or scale-like leaves. Bark of young branches is smooth and reddish-brown. Pale pink to white flowers bloom in dense masses on 1 cm. long spikes at branch tips from March to September. Flower petals and sepals occur in fours and fives.
Growth and Development (Life Cycle): Perennial shrub or tree.
Where it Grows (Habitat & Ecology):

Saltcedar can be found in agricultural areas, desert, lakes, riparian zones, disturbed areas, urban areas, water courses and wetlands.  It often establishes in disturbed areas where natural flooding is reduced, such as downstream of dams.  The seedling/young plant is a poor competitor with other riparian plants so establishment is most successful where substrates are bare, such as after flood scouring or on lake margins when lake levels subside.  The seedlings are also less tolerant of flood scour than native seedlings, therefore, the salt cedar seedlings benefit from decreased flooding and more stable water supply typically found downstream of man made dams.

Saltcedar grows on many different substrates.  It can be found where its roots reach the water table, such as floodplains, along irrigation ditches and on lakeshores.  It prefers fine textured soils and has wide tolerance for saline or alkaline soils.  Establishment is most successful with alkaline soils, available soil moisture and disturbance of native vegetation.

How it Spreads (Mode of Spread): Seed is the primary mode of reproduction.  Saltcedar will re-sprout vigorously from the roots if the top is damaged or removed.  It may also establish from cuttings buried in moist soil.
Reproduction (Dispersal):

Salt cedar seeds can spread by wind and water.  Seeds have been known to germinate while floating on water.  Salt cedar is also spread by ornamental plantings in yards and landscapes.

Since the 1800’s, saltcedar has expanded into all of the western states (>1 million ha), including those in the northern Great Plains (Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska), concentrating on floodplains and reservoir shore lands where its roots can reach the water. The northward distribution of saltcedar in North America was believed, initially, to be limited by cold temperatures.  However, Tamarix ramosissima, the most common species in the western United States, originated in the cold, dry lands of Mongolia, northern China, Tibet, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, and Turkey, all which experience abbreviated frost-free seasons, and hence may not be inhibited by the cold temperatures and short growing seasons characteristic of the northern Great Plains.  Naturalized saltcedar has not yet been reported in Canada, but it has been sold as an ornamental in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Ontario. 

Economic Importance (Beneficial Aspects): It was introduced to North America in the 1800s as an ornamental, for use as a windbreak and for erosion control. 
Toxicity and Other Concerns:

Saltcedar is an environmental and ecological concern because it physically and chemically alters ecosystems causing loss of habitat for native plants and animals. Saltcedar is an ecological and environmental concern because it degrades ecosystems by changing the physical and chemical properties of that system.  It is an aggressive colonizer that can form dense, monotypic stands replacing willows, cottonwoods and other native riparian vegetation.  The mature plants can secrete salt from its stems and leaves that forms a crust above and below the ground that inhibits other plants. 

Saltcedar is also an enormous water consumer.  A single, large plant can consume up to 750 litres (200 gallons) of water a day (based on environmental conditions).  Saltcedar’s high water consumption further stresses native vegetation by lowering ground water levels and can dry up springs and marshy areas.  Conversely, saltcedar infestations can also lead to flooding as its extensive root system can choke streambeds.  Saltcedar can also have detrimental impacts on wildlife as saltcedar seeds and foliage provide little nutrition value for native wildlife consumption.  Species diversity decreases where saltcedar infestations are found.

Origin: Salt cedar is native to Eurasia.  It is found in a zone stretching from southern Europe and north Africa through the Middle East and south Asia to China and Japan.  It was first reported to have escaped cultivation in the western United States in the 1870s and was becoming a serious problem in the watersheds of the America Southwest by the 1920s.
Seed Production:

Saltcedar can produce hundreds of thousands of seeds per plant.  It has been estimated that a single, mature salt cedar plant can product up to 500 000 seeds.  The seeds have no dormancy or after-ripening requirements.  Germination can occur almost immediately after seeds are shed when suitable germination conditions are present.  Seeds usually germinate within 24 hours on moist soils but lose viability within four to five weeks in the wild.  Seeds may even germinate floating on water.  Ideal temperature range for germination ranges between 10 and 35 Celsius.

Flowering can begin when the plant is only one year old.  At least one species of introduced saltcedar, Tamarix ramosissima, is self-compatible. Seeds are randomly dispersed by wind and water to be deposited on both suitable and unsuitable sites. Saltcedar is tolerant of saline substrates and drought, as well as flooding, fire, and other disturbances.

Prevention: Saltcedar is difficult and expensive to control and almost impossible to eradicate once established. Therefore prevention is crucial to keep saltcedar from escaping ornamental plantings in Alberta. Do not purchase these shrubs from garden centers. Seedling infestations are easiest to control – established infestations will require significant funding and effort
over multiple years.
Cultural Control: Hand pulling of new, young plants can be effective in situations where plants are small.
Competition: Saltcedar can crowd out native riparian and wetland vegetation.
Fertility: No information available.
Cultivation: Root plowing has been used in the desert U.S. on large, dense stands.
Mowing: Cutting alone is ineffective, as saltcedar re-sprouts vigorously. The method most employed is herbicide applied to cut stumps with the best results from autumn applications.
If a branch breaks off, it can begin to grow in new soil.
A plant cut off at the ground will regenerate
from the roots.
Grazing: Cattle will eat tamarisk, but grazing alone is not a feasible control method. Trampling from livestock in riparian areas would be detrimental.
Fire: Fire alone will not control saltcedar as it typically re-sporouts vigorously after burning. However, burning in combination with herbicide can achieve excellent control.
Bio-Control: The Tamarisk leaf beetle (Diorhabda elongata) is a defoliator which has been released in the U.S. since 2001 and is beginning to have a substantial impact
Chemical Control: Herbicides also work, but must be applied directly and completely to be
effective. A single untreated branch on a 20-foot tree can start the
generation process all over.

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Last Modified: January 16, 2012

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