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PAL Questions: 2 - Garden Tools:
There seems to be a plant invasion in my Seattle neighborhood. I think what I've been seeing are larger specimens of Ailanthus altissima (Tree-of-Heaven) surrounded for many blocks by smaller seedlings of this same tree. It sprouts up through the middle of landscape plants and lawns, and right up against concrete foundations. I feel I should be warning people, but I'd like to know what the local status of this tree is, and I want to be sure I have identified it correctly. I already know it's aggressive here, and I know it's been designated invasive in other parts of the U.S. and the world.
You are correct that Ailanthus altissima has quite a track record for invasiveness. As you say, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Invasive Species Information Center lists it. If you want to show people in your neighborhood some clear images of the tree in various stages, the Invasive Plants Atlas of the United States has good information.
If you aren't completely certain what the plant is, you can bring samples to the Herbarium here at the Center for Urban Horticulture, or you can compare and contrast what you have observed with some close look-alikes:
- Rhus glabra (smooth sumac) might be mistaken for Ailanthus from a distance.
- Black walnut, Juglans nigra, has alternate and irregularly serrate leaves.
- Aralia spinosa has spines.
Tree-of-Heaven is mentioned in a pamphlet on alternatives to invasives for Eastern Washington gardeners, but it has not yet achieved official invasive status. The Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board is considering a nomination to designate it as a Class B noxious weed (second highest priority) for the 2012 state weed list.
You could encourage your neighbors to eradicate it when possible. It spreads by seed (which can be dispersed by birds but especially by wind), and by root sprouts. It is a very fast grower, and it is important, when digging it up, to get every last bit of root, or you will soon find more of it sprouting. The California Invasive Plant Council has excellent, detailed information on its history, its growth and reproductive habits, and several methods of controlling its spread.
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I've been hearing lately that there's a new invasive insect called brown marmorated stink bug.
What plants does it damage, and how can I prevent or control the damage?
Yes, the brown marmorated stink bug is a recent arrival in the Pacific Northwest. Washington State University Extension has a Pest Watch fact sheet that provides details on its life cycle, contrast with similar-looking bugs in our area, and potential damage the bug causes. "BMSB," as it is called, is well-known on the East Coast for damaging agricultural/edible crops and ornamental plants, as well as seeking refuge inside houses during cold weather (they don't harm people, but they do emit offensive odors).
The website "Stop Brown Marmorated Stink Bug" is the main information clearinghouse on controlling this pest.It includes a list of host plants (two of the most attractive to BMSB are invasives themselves: Ailanthus altissima or Tree of Heaven, and Paulownia tomentosa or Empress Tree). Washington State University is actively involved in research on natural predators and control methods for this invader (as well as another recent one, Spotted Wing Drosophila). Most chemical interventions attempted so far have had limited efficacy. Research into organic controls is ongoing.
For now, get to know what the bug looks like, and if you think you see one in your garden or home, report it as a citizen-scientist using the form on the website of Stinkbug-Info.org or contact your local WSU Extension office.
So far, the only officially reported sightings in Washington State have been in Clark and Skamania counties.
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January 13 2017 10:35:53