An Exotic Tree
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They used the bark and fruit for medicinal purposes and valued this tree as a cultural reminder of their homeland, China Fryer, ; Zheng, Wu, Ding, Fu, and Reardon, Why the early popularity of tree-of-heaven? Fryer states that the scientific name, Ailanthus i. Great marketing for the day. It was touted as a unique, fast growing, ornamental shade tree with a demonstrated ability to grow in a wide range of soil and site conditions. The marketing of this tree by plant enthusiasts matched its performance!
In these early days of American horticulture, air conditioning, as we have come to know it, was instead, provided by the planting of shade trees. By the early s however, tree of-heaven began losing popularity due to its prolific root sprouting and weedy nature in human-occupied areas coupled with the foul odor of its stems and leaves DiTomaso and Kyser, Presently, in this new era of exotic invasive plant awareness, Dirr , states that tree-of-heaven has no horticultural value because there are many other tree species of better quality for designed landscapes.
Similarly, Whitcomb p. Tree-of-heaven seeds or seedlings have been planted in most of the continental U. Leaf glands at the leaflet bases is a diagnostic feature. Brief botanical information.
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Stems are chunky and yellowish to reddish brown in color Dirr, The leaflets are lanceolate and leaflet margins are smooth i. To the beginner, leaflets resemble sumac Rhus spp.
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Hunter, Again, the bases of the leaflets have one to two protruding bumps on the leaflet margin commonly referred to in the literature as glandular teeth. These bumps are diagnostic to species identification. See Appendix. The lateral bud is not enclosed by the shield-shaped leaf scar. There may be two or more leaf glands per leaflet. Leaf scars i.
Bundle scars are in a curved line Magee and Ahles, and number about nine Harlow, Bundle scars reveal breakage points of the vascular conducting tubes from the stem to the compound leaf Harlow, ; Dirr, Seed on the tree is formed in a single-celled, one- to one-and-a-half-inch twisted samara. There is one seed per samara, which is also called a schizocarp Little, ; Fryer, ; Dirr, These single-seeded samaras are wind dispersed and have been documented as traveling a wind-carried distance of feet Fryer, The samaras or schizocarps grow in groups or clusters on the tree.
The whole cluster rarely falls to the ground. This exotic invasive tree seed can germinate and become established in a broad range of soil and site conditions. Whitcomb describes this trait well when he states that tree-of-heaven can germinate and grow in areas of limited soil availability e. They also can tolerate air pollution, high heat, and strong winds.
Harlow and Harrar , reveal that this species can tolerate compacted soils. However, Tree-of-heaven cannot tolerate prolonged wet and flooded soils Miller, , but it can survive in dry soils and tolerate droughty conditions once it becomes established Miller, ; Fryer, Tree-of-heaven has high seed production, but low soil seed bank viability. Every document written about this tree describes its prolific seed production. Fryer states that the largest quantity of seed is produced by trees between the ages of 12 and 20 years old — all the more reason to remove young trees during early-detection control programs.
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Some trees have been reported to produce more than , seeds in one year Fryer, Even though tree-of-heaven can grow in a wide range of soil and site conditions, seed germination and seedling establishment is sparse or limited as compared to the amount of actual seed produced. For example, laboratory germination tests of cold stratified seeds revealed an average germination rate of approximately 50 percent Little, Fryer reported a spring germination rate of 30 percent for seeds that overwintered on parent trees.
Laboratory and field germination test results vary considerably for tree-of-heaven. However, as we have all come to know, not every seed in nature that germinates survives to continue growth and establishment, and this is the case with this species. In addition, soil seed bank seeds have a dormancy of less than one year Fryer, , one major reason for its sporadic distribution in environmentally favorable areas.
Tree-of-heaven schizocarps contain one seed and therefore can be effectively carried by wind currents up to feet, maybe more. Schizocarps that fall into water can be effectively transported long distances; agricultural machinery transport has also been documented Fryer, In sunny environments, tree-of-heaven exhibits rapid stem and branch growth. Corresponding below ground growth of roots is also rapid. Fryer and Miller report that during the early stages of rapid stem and branch height growth, roots simultaneously concentrate carbohydrate reserves very effectively into storage for later use to support top growth and for drought tolerance.
This dual shift in metabolic activity supports later season root growth, as well as root and stem sprouting. It is a point worth remembering that this type of metabolic shift of carbohydrate resources helps protect a species during periods of drought. Once tree-of-heaven is growing in the right conditions this trait becomes a major contributor to it being invasive.
This species is mostly dioecious, i. The light green colored flowers appear from April to May arranged in a multi-branched inflorescence i. The pollen producing male flowers have a smelly or foul odor that helps in attracting some effective pollinating insects such as certain flies, honey bees, many solitary bees, and some beetles. More male flowers are produced than female pollen receiving flowers.
Pollinating insects visit both types of flowers ensuring adequate pollination leading to the development of viable fruit and seed; seed production is high Miller, ; Fryer, The fruit samara or schizocarp appears from August into October Zheng et al, , and some fruit can remain attached to the tree into the winter months Hunter, ; Petrides, Both male and female plants must be in close enough proximity to be fertilized by pollinating insects. Non-seed bearing trees, which are more common in urban areas than in woodlands, may either be a lone male or lone unfertilized female tree.
Horticulturists had a preference for female trees because they lacked the foul flower odor. Vegetative reproduction occurs when stems are cut or broken. For both male and female trees, sprouting produces more potentially reproductive stems than the original uncut or unbroken stem.
Tree-of-heaven is an excellent stump sprout producer i. Stump sprouting also occurs when main stems are broken by falling branches of adjacent over-story trees or by heavy snow and ice loads during winter. Stump sprouting can occur in a single season. In suburban and woodland settings, white-tailed deer Odocoileus virginianus find tree-of-heaven unpalatable as a food source Fryer, Leaf unpalatability partly contributes to this species flourishing in early successional stages Fryer, In addition, it has been demonstrated that the toxic compounds from leaf decomposition i.
Toxic leaf litter leachate weakly, but effectively, serves this species by enabling it to compete better for space, water, nutrients, and light by inhibiting the root growth of some competing native and non-native plant species while tree-of-heaven rapidly grows. Tree-of-heaven turns yellow in the fall and should not be confused with Rhus glabra smooth sumac , shown here with its characteristic red autumn foliage,.
Leaves emerge very early in the spring before most native plants, and this species holds onto its leaves a little longer in the fall than most native plants. Fall leaf color is yellow-green to yellow and occurs somewhat later than when most native plants exhibit fall coloration.
However, spring leaf emergence could be inconsistent with surrounding vegetation. For example, Fryer reports about a observation on Nantucket Island, Massachusetts that this species had very little leaf emergence by early June. With this species a slow start does not translate to slow growth. However, early leaf emergence coupled with maintaining green leaves longer in to the fall allows tree-of-heaven to gain a slight head start over many native trees and shrubs by producing more carbohydrate and other compounds in the leaves for a longer period by way of photosynthesis and by transporting those products to the roots for storage to ensure better winter survival and spring growth.
Butterflies Common names. Fish New Zealand Freshwater. Fish Freshwater exotics. Invertebrates Freshwater New Zealand. Slugs, Snails Flatworms, Worms Terrestrial. Spiders, Harvestman, Mites. Fungi, Mushrooms, Moulds, Slimes. Lichens, Algae, Diatoms. Liverworts Mosses True Mosses Club. Plants Exotic Botanical names with photo. Albizia julibrissin Silktree Aloidendron barberae Tree aloe.
Check out the following web site, it has photos of many plants commonly found in Florida - chances are you've seen quite a few of these plants. Others spread from expanding underground root systems for example, suckering Australian pine and erect sword fern. So invasive exotic plants can spread to new places.
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Why should I care? By getting involved in preventing the introduction and spread of invasive exotic plants, you will be saving yourself money. Because some of them are aquatic, they also can impede navigation and flood control in our waters. I never really thought about all these things before.