Selection of salt tolerant trees

Editor’s note: This article is from the archives of the MSU Crop Advisory Team Alerts. Check the label of any pesticide referenced to ensure your use is included.

One of the voids left by the loss of ashes, particularly green ash, to the emerald ash borer is the need for trees to plant along roadways subject to road salt deposition. Sodium chloride in road salt can damage plants in a number of ways including direct foliar injury from salt spray, osmotic stress to roots and toxicity due to uptake of sodium and chloride. In dealing with road salt issues in the landscape, there are two principle approaches: protection and selection. Trees and shrubs can be protected from salt exposure during the winter by using physical barriers such as covering snowfence with burlap or landscape fabric. The other approach is to select trees that tolerate sodium chloride exposure.

A number of lists of salt tolerant trees and shrubs are available on the Internet and elsewhere. I have linked two of the more complete and well-researched lists at the end of this article. In reviewing lists of salt tolerant plants, remember that salt tolerance ranking can be developed from studies following aerial exposure or soil salt exposure, while others are based on observations from salt-exposed highways. Therefore, there can be inconsistencies from list to list. The table below includes some of the most common salt tolerant trees that are hardy in the Lower Peninsula of Michigan.

Salt tolerant trees hardy in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula

Deciduous trees
Conifers
Hedge maple
Colorado blue spruce
Horsechestnut
Arborvitae
Catalpa
Austrian pine
Hackberry
Mugo pine
Ginkgo
Baldcypress
Honeylocust
Falsecypress
Kentucky coffeetree
Junipers
White oak
Yews
Japanese tree lilac
Larch
Japanese pagodatree
0
Black walnut
0
Black gum
0
Sweetgum
0
River birch
0
Hickory
0
 Salt tolerant trees and shrubs – Morton Arboretum
www.mortonarb.org

Trees and shrubs that tolerate saline soils and salt spray drift – Virginia Tech. Note: This guide includes some plants hardy only to zone 6 or 7 but most listed hardy to zone 5 or below.
http://www.ext.vt.edu/pubs/trees/430-031/430-031.pdf#search=‘salt%20tolerant%20trees

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