What is tamarisk?
Tamarisk (also known as salt cedar) is a deciduous shrub or small tree from Eurasia. Tamarisk can grow as high as 25 feet tall. The bark on saplings and young branches is purplish or reddish-brown. Leaves are scale-like, alternate, with salt-secreting glands. Flowers are small and the petals are reddish, pinkish, or white. Each plant can produce as many as 500,000 seeds annually. The seeds are dispersed by wind, water, and animals. Seeds are small with a tuft of hair attached to one end enabling them to float long distances by wind and water. Seeds are short-lived and can germinate within 24 hours after dispersal, sometimes while still floating on the water.
How did it get here?
Eight species of Tamarisk were first brought to North America in the 1800s from Southern Europe or the eastern Mediterranean region (DiTomaso 1998). The species were first planted as ornamentals and later as windbreaks, and to stabilize river banks. Tamarix species escaped cultivation and are now widespread throughout the United States, with heavier concentrations in the Southwest.