Incredible! Invisible! Insatiable!
By Wendy Langhans
That was one of the taglines from a 1956 sci-fi movie entitled “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”. I think it also could be applied to the invasion of the tamarisk, a plant sometimes known as saltcedar, which grows as a shrub or small tree in riparian habitats or where ground water is near the surface.
Tamarisk is not native to the U.S.; there are 54 species that originate from areas near the Mediterranean Sea. In the mid-19 th century, it was brought to this country as an ornamental plant and was used for erosion control. Little did we know what we were in for.
Tamarisk is a water hog – it is more competitive than our native plants and a grove of tamarisk can dry up our rare and precious watering holes. During the growing season, a tamarisk may grow up to 1 foot per month. A full-grown tree can transpire 300 galleons of water per day. (Transpiration means evaporation of water through the leaves, which helps plants bring up nutrients from the soil.) They also form dense thickets that can serves as a physical barrier to watering holes. They’re not even useful for browsers because their foliage is low in nutrient value.
A tree can produce up to 500,000 tiny (1/25 in. diameter) seeds. Even when you chop it down, the invisible underground roots continue to send up new shoots, so manual removal has to be repeated over a period of several years.
How you can help. The MRCA and the Community Hiking Club are sponsoring a Tamarisk Pull on Saturday, September 8 from 8 AM to 3 PM at Pico Canyon. For more information and to register please contact Dianne Erskine at email@example.com. We meet at the parking lot near Mentryville. For maps and directions go to www.lamountains.com/maps/mentryville_Pico.pdf.
You can listen to stories like this every Friday morning at 7:10 a.m. on “The Hike Report”, brought to you by your hometown radio station KHTS (AM1220) and by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.
For our complete hike and activity schedule and for trail maps, go to www.LAMountains.com.
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