Response of Southwestern maples (ACER spp.) to irrigation water high in soluble salts



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Texas Tech University


The Acer genus includes species that are adapted and widely used as ornamentals in the Eastern U.S. These genera are not common in the landscapes of the High Plains area although some native Southwestern species may be suitable for introduction into the area.

In many cities of the High Plains, the performance of landscape plants may be influenced by their tolerance to municipal irrigation water supplies high in soluble salts. Most maples are known to be sensitive to high salt concentrations which could limit their use in the Southwest.

Objectives of the study were : (1) to determine the differences in growth rate, visual rating, and leaf elemental concentrations of three Southwestern maple species to irrigation water with high concentrations of soluble salts; (2) to determine the effects of two watering frequencies on the 3 species using Lubbock city water high in soluble salts and rainwater; and (3) to determine the changes in total soluble salts in the soil resulting from the two water source treatments.

Two-year-old seedlings from selected populations of Acer grandidentatum (bigtooth maple). A. saccharum ('Caddo' sugar maple), and A. rubrum var. Drummondii (Drummond red maple) acquired from nurseries were grown out-of-doors in bottomless containers from August, 1988 to October, 1989 in Lubbock, Texas. All trees received a measured amount of either Lubbock city water high in soluble salts or rainwater at one of two frequencies. The resulting differences in leaf area, height growth, caliper growth, and leaf tissue concentrations of N, P, K, Ca, Mg, Zn, Fe, Mn, Cu, Na, and CI were recorded. A visual rating was also used to evaluate the trees. Soluble salts left in the soil by the irrigation treatments were recorded at 0, 50, and 100 cm.

Although no differences in leaf area were found, trees (over all species) irrigated with rainwater had a higher visual rating and greater height and caliper growth than those irrigated with city water high in soluble salts. Red maples had the lowest visual rating among the 3 species.

Trees irrigated with city water contained more Mg, Mn, Na, and CI than those watered with rainwater. However, those irrigated with rainwater contained more K. Concentrations of N, P, Fe, and Cu were not different for any treatment. Trees irrigated at the higher frequency contained more Ca than those irrigated less frequently.

Soil soluble salts were higher in containers irrigated with city water. Soils receiving the most frequent irrigation contained the highest concentrations of salts.