Working wonder with weeds

Combating Tree of Heaven

Working wonder with weeds

Combating Tree of Heaven

Taking Action -


The issue

The presence of heavy infestations of invasive weeds on steep, hard-to-access farm land is disheartening for any landowner. Control actions are time-consuming, physically demanding and expensive. If the particular weed is widespread across the region and not officially identified as a priority in Regional Strategic Weed Management Plans, it is very difficult to access grant funding or assistance.

In Splitters Creek just west of Albury, Tree-of-Heaven (Ailanthus altissima) is one such species. It is locally invasive, a direct threat to agricultural production and the environment, and also wide-spread.  John and June Love bought their 173-hectare Splitters Creek farm in 1978.  The dense thickets of Tree-of-heaven were obscuring the boundary fences, choking the hills and hiding the sheep.

Tree-of-heaven has a tendency to sucker extensively from its roots, forming dense thickets and outcompeting other desirable plants.  Control of the species is difficult requiring careful removal of potential propagules (such as seeds, roots & stumps), poisoning and repeated treatments. A single mature tree can produce about 300,000 seeds each year. It has been reported as being able to sucker from roots for at least 4 years after a tree is cut down, sometimes many metres from the parent plant.

The solution

The Loves worked away at it over the years, but the weed is pervasive and tenacious. Then in 2016 and 2017 as active members of the Bungowannah / Splitters Creek Landcare group, they hosted the Holbrook Landcare Network’s Green Army crews.  The crews got stuck into the thickets, cutting & pasting and covering a lot of ground. The kills were +75% were 100% glyphosate was applied to cut stems. 

John and June were really impressed with the results. “Those young ones worked so hard, it was great to have the help. They made a big job achievable, I was inspired and determined to keep going” John said. John used spot spraying to manage the remaining thickets and cut/paste regrowth.

The impact

Now in 2018, John is 82 years old with a brand-new hip and very few Tree-of-Heaven plants on this farm.  He is still crawling around his hills dragging spray hoses and pruning saws to get the last few plants and regrowth, but he is delighted with finally beating it. 

“Without the community support it wouldn’t have been achievable” said John. “I saw that it was possible to beat Tree-of-heaven. Being part of a supportive landcare community encouraged me to go out day after day after day after day and now look, native grasses and wildflowers where once there was only weeds.”

Key facts

  • Tree-of-heaven (Ailanthus altissima) an exotic deciduous tree
  • Grow up to 20 m in height
  • It establishes dense monocultures & exclude other species
  • Spreads by wind dispersed seeds, suckering and root segments
  • Native to Taiwan and central China

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