Issue 10, June 25, 2010
Saltcedar: Watch Out for This Weed!
Saltcedar (Tamarix ramosissima) is an invasive weed that poses a large threat to native ecosystems and local water tables. This plant is a native of Asia and Europe and was originally brought over in the early 1800's to be used as an ornamental and later for erosion control and wind breaks. This plant is of concern because once established it is very aggressive. Saltcedar will overrun an area, crowd out native vegetation, and eventually deposit salt into the soil making the soil uninhabitable for most other plants. Salt cedars also suck up a lot of water with large tap roots that can easily penetrate and drain water tables.
Saltcedar is well established in parts of the U.S. outside of Illinois, particularly out west. It is not known if Saltcedar is found in Illinois yet. Since early action is required to control this plant efficiently, being able to identify this plant is crucial. Saltcedar grows in the form of a shrub or small tree usually no more than 15 feet tall. Saltcedar's small, scale like leaves are similar to many native cedar trees like Eastern Redcedar. However, there are many notable differences between native cedars and Saltcedar. Unlike native cedars, Saltcedar has very bright pink flowers and has very loosely packed foliage and branches. To compare the shape and form of Eastern Redcedar, a native and desirable plant, to Saltcedar, please visit these fact sheets redcedar and saltcedar
Saltcedar can spread through shoots growing out from the root system or seeds transported on animals or humans. Likely places for Saltcedar to grow are in saturated soils with a lot of sun. Saltcedar is not shade tolerant, so well shaded areas are unlikely to become infested. If an infestation is identified, common removal methods include cutting and herbicide. The procedure for herbicide use will depend on the size and location of the infestation and the herbicide being used. In the event that herbicide is being applied to cut stumps, it is important to note that the herbicide should be applied to the stump immediately after the cut is made. Within as little as a minute after the cut is made, the wound will have healed enough to significantly reduce herbicide penetration. If you think you have seen Saltcedar in Illinois or have any questions about this weed, please contact the Illinois Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey (CAPS).--Irenka Carney