They can be seen everywhere, their thin trunks and long leaves sprouting between cracks in parking lots, rising above vacant lots and climbing steep hillsides. The sturdy and fast-growing “Tree of Heaven” – a Chinese sumac featured in the novel “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” – is nearly unstoppable once it sets down roots, crowding out and engulfing native trees. In fact sometimes digging out or cutting down A Tree of Heaven during annual brush clearance stimulates more growth. That’s why the Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Council recently approved spending $950 to support a Tree-of-Heaven eradication program at Debs Park in Montecito Heights and Elyria Canyon and other parks in Mount Washington. Using spot treatments of herbicides, workers will target clumps in neighborhood parks and public rights-of-way, said neighborhood council member Jerry Schneider.
“Spirited volunteers, and the public agencies, have been fighting this plant for many years,” Schneider said by email. “Once you know what this pest plant looks like, you will see it invading many public and private spaces. ”
Other groups, ranging from Mount Washington homeowners associations and the Audubon Center at Debs Park, are also engaged in the battle against the Tree of Heaven. Click on the link below to read a Q&A with Schneider as he provides more details on the tree removal campaign.
Q: Why are these trees such a nuisance?
A: Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima) is an invasive pest plant species listed as a high priority by the California Invasive Pest Plant Council and the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers Watershed Council. In our open space parks, Tree of Heaven forms dense colonies that take over and exclude native habitat plants. On private lands, mature trees become parents of other plants as there wind blown seeds are carried on to other properties. When individual trees are cut down and the roots are not treated, the plant sends up a multitude of sprouts from remaining roots. Sprouts form dense colonies and cutting back as done in annual brush clearance only exacerbates the problem as the roots continue to send up more sprouts. Seedlings and sprouts find there way into crevices in paving, creating problems in patios, driveways and near building foundations.
Q: Where are these trees a problem?
A: Once you know what this pest plant looks like, you will see it invading many public and private spaces. It is quite pervasive and you can find it in quite a few locations. I have seen it in Hermon along the Arroyo Seco channel, along Monterey Road on several vacant lots, hillsides, and coming up in between the sidewalk and bulkhead in the Monterey Pass. It is also present in a few private gardens.
Q: When will the abatement begin?
A: I take it this refers to the abatement efforts approved for funding by the Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Council at its Board meeting on August 26, 2011. This is a continuation of a focused chemical treatment program to chemically treat Tree of Heaven in public parks and rights of way within the ASNC boundaries. Treatments will resume in parks that were treated last year, Elyria Canyon Park in Mount Washington and Debs Park. Also, plans will be presented to the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority for starting abatement in two other parks administered by the MRCA in Mount Washington, Rainbow Canyon and Stahr Pocket parks. The treatments will begin as soon as the programs are authorized by MRCA, and hopefully before the plants go into winter dormancy.
Q: Have these plants been removed before?
Ans. Yes, spirited volunteers, and the public agencies, have been fighting this plant for many years. Last year, ASNC authorized funding and abatement took place in Debs Park and Elyria Canyon parks. In Debs Park, the Audubon Center at Debs Park is taking on the lead to coordinate the program. The Forestry Division of the City of LA Recreation and Parks has a limited budget but is participating in the Debs Park efforts where the licensed herbicide applicator is a part-time employee of Recreation and Parks Department. Last year we worked with Audubon and Recreation and Parks staffs to get the program into a coordinated and documented effort. In Elyria Canyon Park, the effort was co funded by the Greater Cypress Park Neighborhood Council who shares the park with ASNC in as a public park within common boundaries. Not all funding approved last fiscal year was utilized due to dormancy of the plants and deadlines set to expend the fund with before closing the books for the fiscal year.
Q. Will $950 take care of most of the problem or is there a lot more to be done?
A: No. The funds approved by the ASNC this fiscal year are part of a continuing and phased program. And, Yes, there is a lot more to be done. About one half of the funding will be allocated to Elyria Canyon and the other parks administered by the MRCA in Mount Washington. We are asking for co funding from GCPNC again to double the funding for Elyria Canyon Park. In Debs Park, our funds will be partnered with the Recreation and Parks funding and we will be asking the other NC’s that share this regional park to contribute also.
In Mount Washington, the Beautification Committees of the MW Homeowners Alliance and MW Association have started an effort to encourage and coordinate an abatement program on privately owned properties. The services of the same licensed herbicide applicator are being coordinated, and a reduced group rate is being offered. More than a dozen private properties have participated to date, including a very large landowner the Self Realization Fellowship Church. This companion program saves these property owners expenses in future brush clearing or other abatement efforts, and at the same time removes parent plants that may infect nearby public lands.