"tree of heaven" conundrum

MSR2011June 30, 2014

We moved into this home this past winter. Through the "name that plant" link on here, I was able to identify this particular tree as Ailanthus altissima, aka, "tree of heaven". I can attest to the invasiveness of this tree, as I have dozens surrounding two sides of my property, most with trunks between 2-4". I've already begun the battle of cutting down, and covering the stumps with herbicide in an attempt to kill the young root systems.

Now here's what has me stumped(pun intended)lol...I have two rather large specimens, approximately 30-40', that are pretty close to the house. They are imbedded in an embankment about 10-15' or so from the front of house. It should be known that, since moving in I've had to spend thousands to fix my basement slab. There were massive voids underneath that caused cracks and heaving and I had to have a company inject polyurethane to fill the voids to support the slab.

TMI I realize, but it looks like these two large tree of heavens root systems "may" have at least contributed to the slab issues, yet they actually look nice where they are, very nice actually. I'm also concerned that if I cut them down, I might stimulate more root activity, doing more harm than good.

Do you guys think these trees, being probably 15 or so years old, will continue to do damage under my slab, or should I have them cut down, and then try go use a stump/herbicide method for killing the roots, OR maybe try the "cut and squirt" method of killing tree first, then cutting it down.

Sorry for the long post. I did say it was a conundrum! Lol


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I cannot give you advice on the "slab" issue. However, I can tell you (and I think you already know this) that if you do cut down large T's OH you WILL most definitely be seeing millions and millions of T's OH popping up all over your property for yrs to come! The previous owners of my property cut down numerous T's OH and 10 yrs later 100's of saplings are still popping up! I take clippers and cut them close to the ground every Spring but they still persist. There is an enormous TOH outside my window and I have made the decision NOT to cut it. If I see seedlings or saplings I cut them but I think there would be more harm in cutting a large well-estsablished tree than leaving it alone. Their roots run very deep so good luck w/your slab problem...hope someone else might help you there!

    Bookmark   July 1, 2014 at 4:44PM
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Marc, when trees have some or all of their above-ground parts removed, this does not stimulate root growth. That is exactly the opposite of what takes place. Instead, removing above-ground parts stimulates the plant to make new above-ground parts. Those are the root suckers of which both you and Addidas speak. The plant basically is trying to rebuild what has been lost.

Now T of H is a real crap plant, even when it looks "good" like those two you reference. But I don't see the big problem here. Cut them down, immediately treat the cut surfaces with appropriate herbicide-we can supply more info on that if needed-and you will have cleared the slate, possibly to give you room for something better. BTW, I'd wait until fall, when the herbicide would more readily be moved down into the root systems. But again, I don't really see where there's any big problem here. Sure, if you intended to merely cut the things down, not treating with chemical, then you would indeed have an explosion of new stems coming up everywhere. But that's why herbicide treatment is recommended-to prevent just this from happening.

Good luck! +oM

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 9:32AM
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Thanks to you both for responding. A couple of different engineers agreed that my slab problem was due to years of poor water run off, which caused massive erosion and voids under my slab. That and probably poor soil compaction by the builder.

I'm just assuming that maybe the tree's of heavens roots grew under the slab, thus helping create more paths for water to erode the soil. I obviously could be wrong.

Still giving the cutting and painting with an herbicide some thought though, so as not to "un-do" the repairs. I've already cut down maybe a dozen 2-4" diameter ones, and painted the stumps with regular roundup. Hopefully that wasn't a waste of time!

Is there an herbicide you can recommend that I could pick up at Lowes? I've read that roundup concetrate, used full strength works well.

I'm still VERY undecided on whether to cut these guys down. There location really isn't condusive for replacement,...sitting in the middle of a dirt embankment, which is covered with serge stone, which surrounds the trunks up to about 2'. If only I could find a tree of heaven expert that could attest to how much, if any, additional root growing or expanding occurs after these guys are 39-40' tall.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2014 at 9:31AM
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You want herbicide formulated for woody plants. Round up makes one (it might say its for poison ivy but it works on all woody plants) and Brush Be Gone is another.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2014 at 10:22PM
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I thought I'd already posted this,....but again, just in case...I've already purchased some roundup concentrate. I read on here that as long as it is used at 100% strength when painting a freshly cut tree of heaven stump, it wood take care of killing it roots and all. I couldn't find a "for woody plants" type of herbicide in a concentrate. Do you maintain that a regular woody plant herbicide would work better than a "concentrated" version of roundup for stump painting/root killing?


    Bookmark   July 5, 2014 at 4:08PM
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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

There is also taking something like Remedy and mixing it with soap water and kerosene and paint it on the first 18" of the tree and watch the tree die. Then cut it down. I use this method on Baccharis AKA consumption weed( poverty weed Roosevelt weed). It also root from the roots. It does;t when I do this.

I would get rid of the trees. This tree never gives up. I have a friend whose house is a collection of every bad native Texan invasive.The place is a bad sad joke. When I come home I Brush my shoe carefully into the trash.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2014 at 9:02AM
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I have been pulling seedlings since spring, they are particularly thick this year. I imagine its from the tall blooming one on the lot in back of me. There were two large ones planted by our house in the back when we bought it. We cut these down in order to repair the stucco on the house & treated the stumps. It took some time but finally it gave up the ghost. I dug out the endless numbers of volunteers coming up from the roots and it looked like there was a wad of twisted guts under each one, it seemed it would never end but it finally did.

The shock came when we had to crawl under the house a short time after cutting the tree down. There was an albino forest of ToH under there, tall ones that were bent down since they couldn't grow up. Judging by the size of them, we were convinced they were there previous to cutting the tree.

So, I would definitely get rid of them.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2014 at 3:30PM
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Sometimes the "woody" plant formulas have a different chemical that works better. For example the product Brush B Gon contains Triclopyr, which is more aggressive than Glyphosate (which is what is in Round Up).

    Bookmark   July 6, 2014 at 9:20PM
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Yes, what esh just said. But....glyphosate, the active in Roundup, will also usually work in this application. The only problem I'm having is in not knowing what you mean by 'full-strength'. I've been using such materials for 40 years now, and I can tell you there's considerable differences, in terms of concentration of active ingredient, between homeo9wner's products and those available to pros. So.....what to do? Same as always-read the label! Somewhere on there will be info pertaining to exactly what you are trying to do. It will tell you what dilution to go with. For example, if I'm using something we have right now called Glyphosate Pro, we need a 40% ratio of pure concentrate to water, to do cut/treat applications. I can't tell you what yours should be, but that's where that label comes in.

Time of year is of great importance on this application, also. Plants are moving materials down into their root systems in the fall. If you can also be applying your chemical at that time of year, you will have maximized your likelihood of killing the whole thing, roots and all.


    Bookmark   July 7, 2014 at 7:58AM
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By full strength, I'm referring to using the roundup concentrate at 100% strength, instead of diluting with water, as per the instructions. I'm not sure of the % of glyphosate, I believe perhaps around 40% or so.

I tell ya, this seems insurmountable! I've got these trees on 3 out of 4 sides on my property. If I try to completely eradicate them, some of the wooded area between property lots will be almost barren,... that's just how many of these trees of heaven I have.

Luckily, I guess, most that are close to my home aren't that large, yet. They are approximately 15-20' away on one side, along the perimeter of the woods.

Do you guys think I really have to try and eliminate ALL of these. Can't I leave some of the mature ones that are on the "other" edge of the wooded area?, or will these mature ones simply keep on propagating?

This surely does suck, as I've said before,... I really don't mind the look of the tree of heaven. But I don't want ONLY tree's of heaven, which it seems like that's what will eventually happen.

Thanks for all the input.


    Bookmark   July 7, 2014 at 9:32AM
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If any of them are fruiting (that is, show the bright cluster of papery capsules), kill those. They are females and you don't want trees that make more.

But seriously, I would kill them all, I hate them and how they have opportunistically moved into every vacant space possible on the roadsides near me.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2014 at 10:00AM
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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

The thing is That unless you go for it and irradiate them, You will always have them and they WILL be close to your house in time. This tree does not play nice. It does not combine well with other plantings. It robs the soil of nutrients and water and it does not share well.

Good suggestion about applying the poison in fall.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2014 at 10:02AM
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Great,...the two large specimens in my side/front yard are indeed "flowering", so females. I've already cut down a half dozen or so smaller females, and saturated the stumps with roundup, which was mixed with some left over "woody" roundup. Should I be concerned with those paper looking pods on the branches, that are now just lying on the ground?,...haven't had time to try and gather up all the fallen little "demons"!


    Bookmark   July 7, 2014 at 2:40PM
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We just drilled holes and used stump killer on ours. They were very large. I've sprayed saplings across the fence with regular roundup and it worked on the small ones. One good thing is that its an easy tree to cut down, not a lot of big limbs and branches. That is the only good thing I can say about it.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2014 at 3:51PM
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I would definitely gather up any fallen seeds and put them securely in the trash. And plan to take out those big females in the future.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2014 at 8:37AM
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Thanks everyone. I've now seen first hand how quickly these things can "pop up"! As stated, I cut down about a half dozen or so smaller ones, both male and female,...and saturated the stumps with roundup. I have a large red bud tree in the front yard, about 10' away from the edge of the wooded area where a few of the toh's were cut. A week or so later, I noticed 4 baby trees of heaven had sprouted around the red bud,....all already about a foot or more high...geez. I also found one coming up in the garage, in between the two cement sections that have separated slightly.

I've got a tree removal company coming out today, and they supposedly have an arborist on staff. So I'll get his opinion as well. And the battle begins! It just may have to wait until fall though, simply not enough time, as I'm still working on repairing the wreaked basement slab. Thanks again everyone.


    Bookmark   July 10, 2014 at 8:16AM
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Fall wouldn't be bad, as that would be the preferred time for the cut/treat application-of any cut stems. Good luck!


    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 9:02AM
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