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Why people love Tree of Heaven

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Tree of heaven

Originally uploaded by ashley.gill15

Ailanthus altisssima

The vibrant colors in this stunning photo by ashley.gill15 show why people love the Tree of Heaven. Beautiful, yes?   But the beauty applies only to how they look, not how they behave.

These trees will grow anywhere, including in sidewalk cracks and in cities where pollutants keep other trees from thriving.  They grow and grow and grow, and pretty soon there’s nothing growing — no other kinds of trees at all — but the Tree of Heaven.

According to invasive.org, they were Introduced in 1748 by a Pennsylvania gardener. Since then, they’ve wandered across the country. Local efforts are being undertaken across the country to slow and to eliminate the advance of this pretty pest.

Written by stopthembeforetheykillagain

October 18, 2008 at 1:03 am

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Tree of Heaven

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Tree of Heaven

Originally uploaded by maggie_and_her_camera

This graceful tree beautifies lawns, parks, forests, farmland, and every other place into which it can dig its roots.

Given the opportunity, it will become America’s national — and only — tree. It will do so by virtue of outgrowing and out-reproducing the other trees.

As someone said in a recent workshop, “Tree of Hell is closer to the truth than Tree of Heaven.”

I’ve spotted a number of these trees lately, and I have a bit of trouble convincing myself it really is the dreaded Tree of Heaven. Why? Because they are so very pretty. We are innately drawn to symmetry, and as you can see in this lovely photo by maggie_and_her_camera this babe is symmetrical. But, as some people’s grandmothers used to say, beauty is as beauty does; and this baby is rude, overbearing, and obnoxious.

Written by stopthembeforetheykillagain

October 18, 2008 at 12:45 am

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Why it matters to me

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Click here to see the photo in its original location:

flickr.com/photos/questformadness/2448372338/

I read a book last year about invasive species that talked a great deal about the brown tree snake.  Native to Australia and nearby countries, the snake traveled to Guam during and after World War II.  There it found nirvana: a world with plentiful food and no predators.  The birds on Guam had enjoyed a similar privileged status — no natural predators — until the snake arrived.  Therefore, they built their nests in handy places — handy for birds and, it turns out, just as handy for brown tree snakes.  The end result?  The extinction of most of Guam’s birds.

I may be more concerned about invasive species than other people because I grew up on Lake Erie.  While the lake had problems in the 1960s — industrial pollution and sewage pollution, among others — one thing it didn’t have was zebra mussels.  Now it does, and the ecology of the lake has changed permanently.  (The zebra mussel is currently westward bound.)  How did it get there?  Its arrival is attributed to international freighters emptying bilge water than contained the mussels.   I suspect it’s more like the brown tree snake — not just one incident of accidental importation but numerous incidents that eventually culminated in a takeover.

The drama of the brown tree snake  and the zebra mussel is matched by concurrent dramas all over the country.  Oriental bittersweet, for instance, is overpowering the native bittersweet in the park system in Louisville, Kentucky, where I live.  The species may vary, but the problem is nationwide.  I’m fascinated, in part because people continue to plant such species, even when they know about the danger.  I am, as always, attacted by the complexity of the problem.

Written by stopthembeforetheykillagain

September 11, 2008 at 5:37 pm

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Hello world!

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Welcome to my new blog.  I’ve heard so many things about wordpress that I decided to give it a try.  Also, I want to blog about the conflict in the U. S. between native species and non-native invasive species.  In the latter case, both adjectives are relevant.  I’m not concerned about all non-native species; tulips, for instance, are welcome to bloom anywhere they will.  It is the invasive varieties that concern me:  the snakes, grasses, flowers, spiders, vines, and whatever else does fly in the air or swim in the seas or grow by the side of the road.  In coming weeks, I’ll be sharing what I’ve learned and what I still want to know.  Go ahead and link to me now.  You know you want to, and it’s going to be fun.

Written by stopthembeforetheykillagain

September 11, 2008 at 2:56 pm

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