Selected Plants of Navajo Rangelands

Take care of our Navajo Rangelands


Growth habit showing the large number of branches that begin low to the ground

Saltcedar is a perennial, introduced, deciduous tree. It lives 50 to 100 years, and grows 6 to 26 feet tall. Saltcedar has a deep taproot and extensive laterals. It reproduces from seeds, as well as root sprouts. The flowers are white to pink, each 1/16-inch long. They grow in narrow dropping clusters 1 to 2 inches long.

Saltcedar commonly occurs along floodplains, riverbanks, stream courses, salt flats, marshes, and irrigation ditches. It often forms pure thickets that extend for miles. Once established, saltcedar can tolerate both drought and flooding. By shedding its leaves and halting growth, it can withstand lengthy drought periods. It can also survive inundation by water. Saltcedar has a deep taproot that can penetrate the soil to depths of 30 feet or more. It also has extensive laterals. Its dense roots and rhizomes spread out and slow river flow, which increases deposition, and can cause rechanneling of streams and rivers. Leaf drop increases the salinity of the surface soil, causing a white color, thus the name saltcedar.

Salcedar provides nesting for birds, and is an important pollen source for honeybees. It is also used by blacktailed jackrabbits as a major food source. It is relatively unpalatable to most classes of livestock and wildlife.

Medicinally, saltcedar species have been used to treat stomach troubles, diarrhea, rheumatism, rickets, and as an astringent and antiseptic.

There are two species of saltcedar in the region:
Tamarix ramosissima and Tamarix parviflora, extremely similar in appearance, and both noxious.

Reddish-brown twigs covered in dense, needlelike, scaled foliage, not unlike a juniper
Pink-white, drooping inflorescences
Close-up of the small pink flowers on an inflorescence. They begin as tiny, round buds, and white stamens emerge when the blossom opens
Close-up of the small pink flowers on an inflorescence. They begin as tiny, round buds, and white stamens emerge when the blossom opens
The flower clusters make an open V shape on the twig
Brushy appearance of a twig covered in flower clusters
Dark branches and brushy foliage
A densely foliated twig
Pinkish and white blossoms, which occur on clusters along the reddish-brown twig
Foliage, which is almost like a juniper, with small, green scales on stems
Habitat and a dense stand of plants
Pink and white flowers clustered on a twig
Close-up of flower showing variation in color--from white to yellow to pink--in the petals. Petals are fairly linear, rather than round.
Close-up of petals, which are long and narrow, yellow toward the center of the flower and reddish-pink at the tips

Copyright 2018 New Mexico State University. Individual photographers retain all rights to their images. Partially funded by the Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (; 435.797.2257), project EW15-023. Programs and projects supported by Western SARE are equally open to all people. NMSU is an equal opportunity/affirmative action educator and employer..

NMSU does not discriminate on the basis of age, ancestry, color, disability, gender identity, genetic information, national origin, race, religion, retaliation, serious medical condition, sex (including pregnancy), sexual orientation, spousal affiliation or protected veteran status in its programs and activities as required by equal opportunity/affirmative action regulations and laws and university policy and rules. For more information please read the NMSU Notice of Non-discrimination (opens in new window).