Thursday, July 5, 2007

Evil Invader

In my last posting, I appealed for information about a tree I was sure had its roots in the very bowels of hell. Turns out I should have been looking up instead of down. I'm now convinced that I have a Tree of Heaven. Both Jeremy at Paradise in Progress and Iowa Gardening Women at My Iowa Garden suggested I had a Sumac. That sent me down a research path that would deliver only bad news.

Ailanthus altissima, also known as Chinese Sumac, is a native of China that has made itself more than welcome in Canada, and across North America. It is an invasive species that seeds like crazy. Its roots are so powerful that they can cause severe damage to pipes and even building foundations. My assessment of its "unkillability" turned out to be spot on. It's very hard, if not impossible, to get rid of. And despite its dreamy "Tree of Heaven" moniker, it also goes by another, perhaps more appropriate name: the Stink Tree.

I started my online search looking for Sumac. But my husband pointed out that the leaves in all the pictures didn't quite match ours. Most of the sumacs we saw had serated leaf edges while our tree leaves were smooth. I then came upon a Chinese Sumac photo and the leaves were a match. I knew I was getting closer when I saw that Chinese sumac leaves have a "gland" or slight swelling on them. I found swelling after swelling on our leaves. The odour given off by the plant was another giveaway. It smells sort of like nuts. While most of the online info I read described the smell as offensive, I'd say it's rather innocuous. The scar left behind by a snapped-off branch also matched that of Ailanthus altissima. I think we have a winner.

So it is an evil invader after all, despite a lovely name. Perhaps that's part of its success. Who would want to cut down a Tree of Heaven? Oh Time to get hacking.


Soilman said...

Oh dear. Well, look on the bright side... it could be worse. It might have been Japanese Knotweed or something truly ghastly. I would imagine a few applications of concentrated glyphosate should see it off.

Jeremy said... we are even outsourcing our weeds...YAY! for globalization! LOL. Let us know if Soilman's remedy works.

Connie said...

Good job, Irena, on your information sounds like an ominous plant! I hope your efforts are successful and you can be rid of it for all time.

Iowa Gardening Woman said...

Irena, glad you identified the intruder. We have sumac around here, I am not sure if it is the Chinese "heavenly" kind but it does turn a beautiful shade of red in the fall.

Anonymous said...

Strong recommendation is - don't hack. If you physically damage this plant, it generally responds by root suckering (horribly). I'd suggest you chose the herbicide approach (try Ortho Brush B' Gone, painted undiluted on the stem).

I removed approximately 200 trees off my 6 acres, and the only realistic method for doing it is herbicides (unfortunately)....