SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — An invasive plant from central Asia and southern Russia is sucking wetlands in northern New Mexico dry and officials in the area want to see the tree gone.

Officials from the Santa Fe Botanical Garden recently removed 6.5 acres (.02 square kilometers) of Russian olive trees from the Leonora Curtin Wetland Preserve as part of a long-term preservation effort, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported .

"Our biggest intent with tackling the Russian olive is to keep the ciénega (wetlands) wet," said Botanical Garden Director of Horticulture Scott Canning.

"When they leap out in the spring, the water table drops 4 feet," he added, noting the trees "are notorious for removing water from the ground."

Russian olives are also a problem in the Santa Fe National Forest. The trees grow in midrange elevations, including along the Jemez River, where they compete for water with native trees.

Cecil Rich of the U.S. Forest Service said the federal government would like to do something to control the Russian olive, adding that could be done by pulling them up by the roots or with herbicides.

The Forest Service has an Environmental Impact Statement in progress under the National Environmental Policy Act. If herbicide use was authorized, approval from the New Mexico Department of Agriculture would be required, he said.

Steven Cary, of Santa Fe, praised the botanical garden's efforts against the Russian olive but said more needs to be done.

"I give them a lot of credit for doing it," Cary said of the tree removal. "This is a really important first step."

Still, Cary cautioned, the Russian olives "will respond in some way."

The trees actually are native to western Asia, some areas of tropical Asia and southeastern Europe. First cultivated in Germany in the 1700s, they were introduced as a windbreak and ornamental tree to the United States in the 1800s "before spreading into the wild," according to the Introduced Species Summary project of Columbia University.


Information from: The Santa Fe New Mexican,