Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Looking for Mama Tree: Tree of "Heaven" Update

Not 32,000 seeds, almost all viable. 325,000 seeds, every year. Ah, Ailanthus altissima.

If you are managing--eradication being impossible--this invasive species in a time of climate change, you face an uphill battle. This plant, like poison ivy and other plants that don't serve our needs, is here to stay as Carbon-Dioxide levels continue to rise in the atmosphere.

Without resorting to clear-cutting, a practice that actually propagates the plant, or chemicals noxious to us and our bees, there are some ways to reduce the presence of this tree.

I found a great article from Phil Pannill, Regional Watershed Forester with the Forest Service at Maryland's Department of Natural Resources (link to Mr. Pannill's PDF here). It seems that the practices described last year in this blog will help, but I did find two huge "Mother trees" in the woods or near the roadside that need to be destroyed.

Thanks to the article, I now know I can do this without too many chemicals or even a chainsaw. I'm going to make hatchet-cuts around the trunks and brush in Roundup, as I do on the small trees I've been cutting. Last year's culling only yielded one tree that re-sprouted, so the method for smaller trees is about 90% successful for me. Next I'm going to put on my snakeproof chaps and wade into the thickets to get the rest, including the two "mamas" that make more seeds than there are people around here.

The key to controlling the trees in wooded areas is to keep them from reaching the canopy. If one keeps at the seedlings, they'll decline and die in the shade. Mama, however, is going to take a bit more effort. I'm still investigating what to do with the logs and brush. If they are safe to take to the county landfill to compost, off they go. The trunks are pretty and used in China for cabinetry, so I may keep them around to see how they weather for outdoor use in the garden or field.

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