1277 Tamarix ramosissimaCommon Names: Saltcedar,salt cedar,tamarisk,five-stamen,tamarisk Family: Tamaricaceae (tamarisk Family)
Saltcedar is a shrub or small tree with tiny scale-like leaves that are deciduous in winter. It’s sort of like a juniper, but is not a conifer nor is it evergreen. Reaching just 10-15 ft (3-4.5 m) in height, saltcedar has gracefully arching reddish brown stems clothed with overlapping pointy leaves only 1/8 in (3 mm) in length. The leaves have tiny salt-secreting glands near their tips. The flowers are pink with five petals, and borne in dense featherlike plumes around 3 in (8 cm) long, mounted upright on the tips of young shoots. ‘Pink Cascade’ was selected for its showy bright pink flowers. ‘Cheyenne red’ has darker pink flowers, and ‘Rubra’ darker still. Apparently there are several difficult-to-distinguish species of saltcedar in cultivation and growing wild.
Tamarix ramosissima is native to sandy coastal areas and inland deserts, including along the Mediterranean, in southern Europe, northern Africa and western Asia. It was once widely cultivated in dry climates, especially in the southwestern US, where it has since escaped cultivation and become established. Saltcedar now occurs along floodplains, riverbanks, and irrigation ditches in arid regions of the Southwest. It often forms pure stands causing native plant species to die out. In other parts of North America, escaped saltcedar grows along streams, sandbars, lake margins, wetlands and saline environments.
Light: Saltcedar requires a sunny location. It does not tolerate shade. Moisture: Saltcedar does well on light, sandy soils. It is tolerant of alkaline and salty soils and actually does best on soils low in fertility. Hardiness: USDA Zones 3 - 8 . Propagation: Seed should be sown outdoors as soon as ripe. Cuttings of greenwood or semi-hardwood stems can be started in spring or summer, with best results likely under intermittent mist.
Saltcedar is used in shrub borders and hedges and as a stand alone specimen shrub. It is especially useful in coastal situations since it is tolerant of gusty winds, salty soil and salt spray. Saltcedars are often planted in hedges to serve as wind breaks. Saltcedar has a fine texture in the growing season, and very beautiful flowers, but it is rangy and coarse in the winter. Saltcedar has a tendency to become top-heavy and may break off or fall over, so prune regularly. You can cut them back almost to the ground. Saltcedar blooms in late summer on new growth, so you can prune in late winter or early spring without sacrificing future flowers.
Saltcedar is an aggressive grower, even on soils so severely impacted that virtually no other plants will grow. Saltcedar can be used to rehabilitate and stabilize highly saline soils, sand dunes, and soils severely damaged from mining operations. The tap root can grow nearly 100 ft (30 m) deep. Horizontal roots can spread up to 165 ft. When the leaves fall in autumn, they add salt to the soil, eventually making it toxic to other plants and leading to a pure stand of nothing but saltcedar.
Although saltcedar is an extremely troublesome and noxious weed in riparian habitats in arid parts of the western and southwestern U.S., it seems to be an OK ornamental shrub in the home landscape elsewhere in North America.
Saltcedar is a highly invasive species in more than a million acres (4046 km2) of the western United states where it has displaced native plants, usurped limited ground water, and negatively impacted native wildlife. Stands of saltcedar have been responsible for drying up streams and springs, and lowering the ground water table. Saltcedar crowds out native streamside and wetland vegetation, and increases the salinity of the soil, so that native plant species cannot survive. In many public lands, major efforts are being undertaken to eliminate or control saltcedar. Saltcedar is listed as a noxious weed that should not be cultivated by at least 11 mostly western states.
Steve Christman 1/9/17