Tree Ain’t Pretty Tree Just Looks That Way

The Tamarisk Tamarix ramossissima more commonly known as a Salt Cedar is a gorgeous tree with a voracious appetite for land and water. Introduced as an ornamental back in the 1800’s this tree has now naturalized itself over almost a million acres in the Western United States.

The salt cedar has been vilified as an introduced species that has displaced native trees and competes for water in places that have little to spare.

In other words, the Tamarisk R Us. Just as Europeans took over North America displacing its original inhabitants, so has the Salt Cedar thrived in its new surroundings to the detriment of those who were here first.

A mature salt cedar can consume 200 gallons of water per day. In an area that always thirsts for water these numbers sound scary. As so often happens when we are scared-and when faced with water shortages who wouldn’t be a little frightened-we react without knowing all the facts.

Common greek tree - Lonely Saltcedar (Tamarisk) - Crete

 

In desperation to return the land to its native condition humans have spent millions of dollars trying to eradicate the salt cedar with little success. But here’s another fascinating fact; turns out native species such as cottonwoods and willows are just as thirsty as their transplanted neighbour. Could it be that it isn’t the trees that are causing the water shortages, but the climate, the people and we have managed the land and the environment?

What is the truth and what can we do about it?

One of the best papers I have ever read on the battle with the Tamarisk and the facts behind it was written by Melissa L. Lamberton on Terrain.org 

It is well worth a read.