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Despite This We Stay for August 9th, 2012

by Carol Dunn
HUERFANO — When I first saw a tamarisk bush, or salt cedar, I was entranced by its beauty. It has a graceful, lacy appearance and is covered with soft pink blossoms in the spring. How could anyone not like tamarisk? Of course lovely things of grace aren’t always loveable, as was proven by the young bikini-clad blonde who stood screaming at the top of her lungs when a fish was flung at her feet on the dock at Lake Powell. As for the tamarisk, I had to learn the hard way that you cannot harvest any fruit from a tamarisk, you can’t trim it to look like anything but a big, scraggly bush, you can’t eat its salty leaves, and you cannot kill it.
Tamarisk was imported from Eurasia and the Mediterranean so people on the east coast could use it as an ornamental. Why they didn’t just stick with basil and rosemary, we’ll never know. Then, someone probably got the brainy idea to take tamarisk out west and plant it there – so they would have a little piece of “home” at their new home. Well, tamarisk LOVED the west. It’s hot and dry and sunny – perfect conditions for the shrubs to begin to take over the world. They formed the group Tamarisks Rule and began to pop up everywhere. And when I say everywhere, I mean it. I have proof from our trip to Lake Powell.
The oldest docks at Bullfrog Marina are about 100 feet from shore. On one of the docks a chunk is broken away, and growing in the damaged spot is a tamarisk tree. Yes, a tree is growing out of the side of the dock. There’s no soil. There’s nothing but the dock material, which looks like 25-year old Styrofoam. And there is water. Now, I’ve heard that tamarisks love water, but this is the ultimate proof. The tree is growing basically on air and water. It’s the perfect survivor species.
I’ve often heard it said that cockroaches will take over the world after it is destroyed in the final world war. But I have a correction to that prediction. I believe the survivors will be cockroaches and tamarisks.
If you burn tamarisk, it will sprout back. If you bulldoze it, a tree will grow back from each root that’s been cut. It’s like that guy Jeebs in Men in Black – it just grows a new head, or in the case of tamarisk, a couple of heads. If you poison it, you can’t touch the dead stump or even breathe on it for something like 50 years, well maybe it’s five years, but whatever, it’s a long time. Because if you touch it, the dead stump will come back to life. There’s something very zombie-like about that warning.
There are around a million acres in the Southwest infested with tamarisk. If you don’t have one on your property yet, they’re coming.

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