Saltcedar (Tamarix ramosissima)

Yellow flowers of birdsfoot trefoil in a field.


Saltcedar (also known as tamarisk) is a tree or shrub. It has small, green, scale-like leaves and small pink flowers that grow in linear clusters. Saltcedar is known for increasing salinity (salt levels) in soils and reducing available water.



Saltcedar is a deciduous, perennial, tree or shrub that can grow from 6 to 25 feet tall.

Leaves and stem

Saltcedar has small, scale-like leaves that look similar to those of northern white cedar. Unlike northern white cedar, saltcedar leaves fall off in the winter. Saltcedar leaves have special glands that secrete salt. The salt-covered leaves can accumulate on the soil surface and increase the salinity of the soil. The bark on the stems and trunk is smooth when the plant is younger and can get more grooved as the plant ages.


Flowers are pink and grow in loose branching clusters. Flowers are small (less than 1/8 of an inch) and have 5 petals.


Saltcedar fruits are small capsules that contain many tiny seeds. Seeds are small and black with a tuft of hair attached to one end, allowing them to float on wind or water. A single plant can produce several hundred thousand seeds in a year. However, these seeds are short lived and do not form a persistent seed bank.


Saltcedar has a deep, extensive root system that can extend to the water table. It has a primary root that grows with little branching until it reaches the water table. New stems can sprout from roots if the primary stem is damaged.


Saltcedar is a perennial shrub or tree that can grow in many environmental conditions. It can grow along waterways in dry climates. It has been planted as ornamental plant in Minnesota.

Origin and spread

Saltcedar is native to Western Europe and the Mediterranean to North Africa, Northeastern China, India and Japan. It was introduced to the western United States as an ornamental shrub and windbreak species in the 1800s. Tiny seeds are dispersed by wind and water.

Refer to EDDMapS Distribution Maps for current distribution.

Don't be fooled by these look-alikes

  • Northern white cedar, Thuja occidentalis (native) – Northern white cedar keeps its leaves all year and had has cones, saltcedar loses its leaves in the winter and has pink flowers. It has gray to reddish brown bark, separating in long, vertical, narrow shreddy strips, in contrast to the smooth or grooved bark of saltcedar.
  • Eastern red cedar (juniper), Juniperus virginiana (native) – Eastern red cedar keeps its leaves all year and had has round berry-like cones, saltcedar loses its leaves in the winter and has pink flowers. It has thin, reddish-brown bark that peels off in long, vertical shreddy strips, in contrast to the smooth or grooved bark of saltcedar.
  • Tamarack, Larix laricina (native) – both tamarack and tamarisk lose their leaves in the winter. Tamarack has soft needle-like leaves that are about 1 inch long and grow in clusters while saltcedar has small, rounded, scale-like leaves. Tamarack has small cones and saltcedar has pink flowers.
Regulatory classification

This species is a Minnesota Department of Agriculture Restricted Noxious Weed meaning it is illegal to import, sell, or transport. 

Threat to Minnesota

Saltcedar can change soil composition and chemistry (i.e., increase salinity), reducing native plant diversity. Saltcedar is widespread along river corridors in the southwestern U.S., reducing recreational use of parks, wildlife refuges, and riparian areas. Saltcedar uses more water than native plants, which can draw down water tables, dry up springs or pools, and lower flow rates of rivers.

What you should do

One way that invasive plant seeds and fragments can spread is in soil. Sometimes plants are planted purposefully. You can prevent the spread of invasive plants.

PlayCleanGo: Stop Invasive Species in Your Tracks

  • REMOVE plants, animals and mud from boots, gear, pets and vehicles.
  • CLEAN your gear before entering and leaving the recreation site.
  • STAY on designated roads and trails.
  • PLANT non-invasive species.
Native substitutes
Control methods

Mechanical control can be done by digging or pulling the plant by hand or with equipment such as rakes or cutting blades.

Herbicide control can be done using systemic herbicides, which are taken up by plants and move within the plant, killing leaves, stems, and roots. Cut plants will resprout if the stump is not treated with herbicide after cutting. Immediately after cutting (within 2 hours), apply an herbicide containing triclopyr (Garlon 3A/Vastlan, Garlon 4, or other brush killers with triclopyr) or glyphosate (Roundup) to the cut stump to prevent re-sprouting. Always follow label instructions for herbicides. Herbicides can be applied to cut stumps with a paintbrush, wick applicator such as a dauber or "buckthorn blaster," or a low volume sprayer. The most effective time of year for cut stump treatments is August through October.

In cases where more than a few plants are treated, add an indicator dye (available where pesticides are sold), such as Mark-It Blue, to the herbicide to mark which cut stumps you have sprayed.

For basal stem treatment, a method that applies chemical through the bark, low volume spray applications can be made with Garlon 4, Pathfinder II and similar oil-based products. This application method uses triclopyr ester mixed with an oil diluent (i.e. Bark Oil Blue, kerosene) applied directly to the bark of tree of heaven from the root collar up about 12-18 inches. An ultra-low volume spray wand should be used to minimize herbicide use and reduce the potential for non-target injury.


Report new occurrences by submitting a report through EDDMapS, emailing Report a Pest, calling Report a Pest (1-888-545-6684), or contacting your local county agricultural inspector.


Back to top