Salt-cedar is an introduced perennial shrub or small tree with many small, slender branches. The younger branches and sprouts are red. The plant can be found throughout the Central and western regions of the state along streams, rivers, ponds, and lakes.
Salt-cedar was brought to the U.S. in the early 1800s by nurserymen for landscaping. Then in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the U.S. Department of Agriculture used it to aid with erosion control and it was grown as windbreaks in the Plains.
There are many species of this plant and three have been identified in Texas.
Has small scale-like, grayish-green leaves.
Produces pink buds that will turn into pinkish-white dense flowers on stem tips.
Seeds are small (less than 1/8 inch in length) and tufted with hairs on the tips. This gives the seeds good mobility. Each shrub can produce as many as 500,000 seeds. Flood events will carry the seeds down the watercourse to the Gulf of Mexico, leading to new infestations.
The name comes from its ability to grow in salty areas and for the juniper-like appearance of its leaves.
Salt-cedar is deep-rooted and forms dense clusters, crowding out other vegetation. These clusters are found at the waters’ edge or near water and will persist if not controlled.
Salt-cedar is a large problem in many regions of the state because it can lower the water table and destroy critical wildlife habitat.
This plant has little to no value for cattle. Goats will browse the plant and have been used in large herds to help reduce plant populations in some areas, with limited success. Wildlife species will use the dense stands for cover on occasion, but it has little food value.
Salt-cedar should be controlled as soon as growth is observed. Mechanical and chemical methods can treat the plant. Follow-up control is critical for long term control. It has been the target of state eradication programs in the past and will continue to be a pest in the future.
Editor’s note: Kent Ferguson, retired rangeland management specialist from USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), is providing us with plant identification photo stories to help ranchers identify those forbs, forages and species growing in the pastures. Additional photos provided by USDA NRCS.