Mark Mosley, speaking on behalf of the NRCS, illustrates the encroachment of Salt Cedar on area water ways.

Once friendly plant now the enemy

he hardy Salt Cedar, first established in the 19th century as an ornamental plant and soil erosion preventative is now considered to be a land and water grabbing enemy.

Mark Mosley told interested farmers and cattlemen that the trees have two different root systems, a primary system that runs shallow at about three meters and a tap root that may be as long as 53 meters.

Mosley then illustrated how fast the plants propagate by showing pictures of the Cimarron and Beaver Rivers and the advancement of the hard wood trees in only 10 years. Mosley added that the potential for the lack of flood control is a problem.

The usual water usage figure given is that a Salt Cedar can use up to 200 gallons of water per day; that, Mosley said, is a misused figure. He explained that it's accurate under basically what is clinical conditions with one plant; however as the plant population rises, the water usage per plant drops.

Mosley called the tree “...the coyote of the plant world.” It's ability to pull water from great depths and the fact each plant can produce up to 500 thousand seeds per season, guarantees it will propagate.

It was pointed out that eight states, including Oklahoma have begun to battle Salt Cedar.

Mosley pointed out that even the city of San Antonio, Texas had begun trying to control the pesky tree as flood control.

“It's time for us to step up and take care of our part,” said Cherrie Brown of the NRCS.

Brown pointed out that there will be cost-share help from her agency in treating the problem, based on the environmental effect.

Some of the considerations given to control have been spraying, burning and cutting. The state of Texas has also begun experimenting with a leaf beetle which would only attack the Salt Cedar, and that even this, like other methods are seen as only control, because total elimination is considered to be impossible.

“We need to move in a deliberate way,” Mosley insisted. “We need to know what the impact will be, how ever we choose to treat the problem,” Mosley said.