Tree of heaven a remarkably resilient plant - Albuquerque Journal

Tree of heaven a remarkably resilient plant

Tracey FitzgibbonQ. In my neighbor’s yard there is a stand of tree of heaven trees that are growing really well. My trouble is the trees are spreading into my yard. I imagine that since I water my trees and shrubs, the trees of heaven are attracted to my space because of the water. I don’t want them growing in my yard, so how can I get and be rid of them? – N.H., Albuquerque

A. You’re probably correct in thinking that since you water and maintain your yard, that is what is encouraging the trees of heaven to invade your space. The tree of heaven is a very aggressive interloper and will go where it darn well pleases.

It spreads quickly by suckers, as well as self-sowing lots of wind-borne seeds soon after flowering, so the tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima) is remarkably resilient.

Since it is so very able to grow in remarkably adverse conditions, I think that is partially how it got its name. After all, when you have a plant that is able to grow easily to a height of 25 feet, offers shade and safe haven for nesting birds, can survive drought and wind, and can grow in most any soil condition, well, that makes the tree of heaven, to some, heavenly.

I have and do continue to think of the tree of heaven as a “weed tree” since it can and usually does pop up in the most aggravating spots, especially if there are any growing nearby.

In order to eradicate the interlopers, you will need to stay vigilant. As soon as you recognize one popping up, you need to hunt it vigorously.

First, I’ll suggest you pull and tug at the youngster to get as much of the tree out of the ground as humanly possible. As you tug and pull, aim to expose as much of that root as you can. Getting to the end of that root, cut it off. On that exposed end paint or pour, very specifically, a product containing glyphosate (Roundup) on the exposed root end. Please notice I did not use the term spray. It’s best you paint or pour small amounts of the chemical on just the root end. Be conscious and concerned, so you don’t run the risk of damaging anything in your landscaping.

If sprayed, there is a risk that a certain amount of mist could drift from the space you are working on. Having painted or poured the chemical directly on that root, it will be absorbed and kill that part of the root.

Since the tree is so remarkably resourceful, that doesn’t mean it won’t pop up again in a different place. You are aiming to discourage it so it will stay in the neighbor’s property.

By staying vigilant, pulling, severing and painting with the herbicide, I believe you’ll be able to keep the tree of heaven at bay. Also get in the habit of watching for and cleaning up any seed that might drop from the mother tree to keep your area even more weed tree-free.

It’ll be a continuing battle, but remember, a tree that can grow here, in such adverse conditions, isn’t a bad thing, just most inconvenient showing up in your yard.

Dear Readers: The time is upon us. The city’s annual green waste recycle period is here. Starting Monday, May 2 through Friday, May 13, you can have all your green waste collected and, in turn, recycled by the city.

There are rules and I ask you respect them. The bagged yard waste needs to be placed curbside on your assigned trash collection day by 7 a.m.

Pile the collection five feet away from your trash bins. Remember that the bags should weigh no more than 40 pounds each. You can also place limbs and branches that are bundled and are no more than 4 feet in length. As I’ve said, the Hulk doesn’t work for the city, so don’t go nuts making your collections too heavy. Be thoughtful.

Remember this service is for the removal of green waste. Do not place old patio furniture, tires, any manner of used construction materials, bundled newspaper or glass in your piles and expect them to be whisked away.

Good luck, stay safe while you’re out there Diggin’ In.

Tracey Fitzgibbon is a certified nurseryman. Send garden-related questions to Digging In, Albuquerque Journal, 7777 Jefferson NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109, or to


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