Success story

Aug 20, 2010
by WLJ

—Saltcedar (Tamarix or Tamarisk)

This shrub was introduced as an ornamental in the early 1800s. While it may have looked pretty in a windbreak, the extensive taproot—which can descend 50 feet into the soil—and thousands of tufted seeds have allowed it to thrive in many areas, displacing native plants and slurping up copious amounts of groundwater.

The “salt” in saltcedar comes from its ability to concentrate salt in its leaves. When those leaves drop, it increases the salt concentration of the soil, making it impossible for many native plants to grow. Saltcedar has no problem growing in this soil.

This adaptable plant can transpire more than 200 gallons of water, making it capable of drying up small streams and ponds.

In South Dakota, Mike Moechnig, extension weed specialist with South Dakota State University, says the infestation of saltcedar has gone from rapidly spreading along the Missouri River to declining. “The number of acres infested with saltcedar has been dropping rapidly. This is because a large number of individuals and agencies have worked together to get it under control. That’s a huge success.”