Trees for Abandoned Feedlots Back »

I once was looking over a young planting of spruce where the trees were of uniform size except for a pocket near the center of the planting where the rows of trees were stunted and sparsely covered with needles. I asked the producer if the “pocket” was the former site of a feedlot. It turned out to be a feedlot site abandoned more than a decade ago.

Finding trees to plant over former feedlots or surrounding existing ones is not an easy task. The high salt content to the soils makes it difficult to start many tree seedlings and can even affect the growth of larger trees. I often find the salt content, as measured by soil conductivity, 5.8 dS/m or greater. There are very few trees and shrubs that tolerate this high of salt level, particularly as seedlings. Some of the most salt-tolerant trees and shrubs can be found in Table 1.

Table 1. Salt-tolerant trees.

Scientific name Common name
Caragana arborescens Peashrub
Celtis occidentalis Hackberry
Crataegus Hawthorn
Gleditisa triacanthos Honeylocust
Juniperus scopulorum Rocky Mountain juniper
Pinus mugo Mugo pine
Pinus nigra Austrian pine
Ptelea trifoliata Hoptree
Potentilla fruticosa Potentilla

The two most salt-tolerant woody plants are Russian-olive and tamarix. However, Russian-olive can become invasive, so plantings are being discouraged, and tamarix is invasive and plantings are no longer allowed.

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