The Trouble with Tamarisk

Sidebar by Marcia Darnell

Environment – May 2006 – Colorado Central Magazine

Doze it, dig it, cut it, poison it. Removing tamarisk is a task.

Tamarisk, also know as salt cedar, is deadly to streambanks. The plant absorbs an enormous amount of water, up to 200 gallons a day, then leaves a salt residue that kills native plants. It is therefore designated enemy number one in many areas.

Sens. Wayne Allard (R-Colo.) and Pete Domenici (R-N. Mex.) are sponsoring the Salt Cedar Control Demonstration Act, to direct the Dept. of the Interior to assess the infestation of the weed and demonstrate methods for its eradication. The Nature Conservancy also has a project near Telluride to eliminate the plant in that watershed. And the Rio Grande Headwaters Restoration Project and the San Luis Valley Noxious Weed Coordinating Committee have formed a Tamarisk Task Force with the avowed purpose of eradicating the weed in that valley.

Removing tamarisk is very labor-intensive. In areas of large infestation, aerial spraying can be an effective, albeit expensive, method. Bulldozing is great for clearing a large area as well.

However in riparian areas, standard operating procedure is to cut the plant off at the root and treat the stumps with a special herbicide. The drug, marketed under the name Garlon, costs about $26 a gallon.

Collaboration helps. The Rio Grande Headwaters Restoration Project gives small amounts of Garlon to landowners who need to remove only a few plants, and some individuals team up and buy a gallon to share. It’s all about the common enemy. — MD