PESTS: Tree of Heaven. It sounds nice, doesn’t it? However, the Center for Private Forests at Penn State tells us that it is not.

It’s a fast growing, deciduous, exotic invasive tree that is able to germinate and grow in a wide variety of soil and site conditions. It can reach a height of 80-plus feet tall. It’s commonly observed in cities and towns as a tree growing out of place, like in cracks and crevices of stone or patios, sidewalks, close to building foundations and bridge abutments and out of stone walls.

“In late summer and early fall you might easily recognize tree-of-heaven as the female trees have showy clusters of orangey-red maturing seeds across the upper crowns, which look a bit like uniquely colored hydrangea flowers at a distance. Later, the color will fade, becoming off-white and remaining until spring in the leafless trees,” reads material from Penn State. “The compound leaves look very similar to black walnut and sumac; however, on closer examination, they have many more leaflets (from 15 to 41) and approach 3-feet in total length. Each of the individual leaflets has a small gland at the base of the blade near the petiole. The real telling difference is the offensive smell when leaves or stems are crushed, which is sometimes described as ‘spoiled peanut butter.’”

The spotted lanternfly is an invasive species that is already found in 10 southeastern Pennsylvania counties, which are now under quarantine.

The spotted lanternfly is threatening fruit and grape production (think about Pennsylvania’s burgeoning wine industry) and at least 25 forest tree species.”

The lanternfly can reproduce on many trees and shrubs, but seems to prefer the tree-of-heaven.

“Importantly, though, controlling tree-of-heaven could play a role in slowing the lanternfly’s advance. Therefore, learning to identify tree-of-heaven is the first step in managing the pest’s spread.”

Tree-of-heaven is allelopathic, meaning it exudes chemicals that may suppress other tree species, which further benefits is ability to colonize areas.

While root sprouting is a major way by which the tree colonizes, reproduction also occurs from seed. Individual flowers can contain hundreds of seeds. Estimates are that individual trees may produce upwards of 350,000 seeds annually

To learn more about the spotted lanternfly, start your web search at This insect is a major threat and worthy of everyone’s attention.

To learn more about controlling tree-of-heaven, visit

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