Ailanthus anltissima, or Tree of Heaven grows quickly and crowds out native trees and shrubs. An invasive from Asia, it evolved with many insects that are pests here, and the tree is one of their favorite places to live. In fact, Pennsylvania uses them as a “trap tree” to lure the invasive Spotted Lantern Fly. It is alelopathic, secreting substances into the soil that inhibit surrounding plants, helping it to wipe out native trees and shrubs.
A recent study shows that specimens of Tree of Heaven that were given an injection of the fungus Verticillium nonalfalfae gives the tree a severe wilt disease that spreads rapidly to other Trees of Heaven. A commercial product is in the works, along with studies to confirm that it doesn’t harm native plants. The fungus is native to the Northeast US, and so far appears to be safe.
Fingers crossed, because this could be a boon to controlling this aggressive invasive without chemicals!