• The dunes in soft light

    White Sands

    National Monument New Mexico

There are park alerts in effect.
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  • Closures and Missile Tests

    Upcoming Missile Tests: From time to time the missile range that surrounds us performs missile testing that may require the closure of the park or Highway 70. Please follow the link below for up to date information on closures More »

  • New Monument Hours

    The monument currently opens at 8 a.m. and closes roughly 1 hour after sunset. More »

  • Road Safety Corridor

    The first four miles of Dunes Drive is a road safety corridor. Slowing or stopping in the corridor is prohibited. Dune Life Nature and Playa trails are also temporarily closed. The staff of White Sands National Monument apologizes for the inconvenience.

Tamarisk

Lizard sitting on a saltcedar

Lizard sitting on the trunk of a saltcedar

NPS Photo

As you drive along Highway 70 between Alamogordo and Las Cruces, you will see plenty of feathery-looking tamarisk trees lining the road. They even grow deeper in the park itself and along its edges, and can reach anywhere between 5 to 25 feet in height.

The tamarisk was introduced into New Mexico and other areas during the 1800s. It was used as an ornamental tree and to help prevent soil erosion. Unfortunately, in desert areas where water is at a premium, the tamarisk poses several threat to native plant species.

Usually, tamarisk is found in riparian areas, along streams and rivers throughout New Mexico. It requires a lot of water to grow, with each tree using about 200 gallons of water a day. Here in White Sands National Monument, our high water table provides the perfect environment for the tamarisk, as the trees are able to find plenty of water. The problem this poses is that it siphons water so quickly that it out-competes other forms of native vegetation, such as the Rio Grand Cottonwood.

The tamarisk is well-suited to areas where the water has a high salinity, which is why it is also known as the Saltcedar. Unlike other trees, the tamarisk will store the excess salt in its tissues and then excrete it into the soil, making the ground unsuitable for many other native species.

The tamarisk's trunk (it can have multiple trunks) is covered in rough bark and produces a feathery, green, gray-green or blue-green foliage which are small and scale-like, often overlapping. In the summer, it grows long, white or dark pink bunches of small flowers. Physical removal of tamarisk trees is only possible if the root crown is removed. If it is not, the root crown will send out shoots that will produce many more trees.

 
Lost River infested with saltcedar
The Lost River infested with tamarisk (saltcedar).
NPS Photo

Did You Know?

Photo of yucca growing on a dune

Some species of plants can survive burial by a moving dune by a process called "stem elongation." As the sand rises, the plants quickly grow upward to keep their leaves above the rising sand.