Tree of Heaven?

Asked June 12, 2015, 1:37 PM EDT

I am a first-time vegetable gardener, and I have made a thousand mistakes, but hoping to learn from each of them. I picked out what I thought was a "prime" spot for the garden's location based upon the shadows, or lack thereof in the yard, and that is where I established the garden. I knew I wanted at least 8 hours of direct sunlight, and this spot provided it. There was some shade which I rectified by clipping branches. So a couple of weeks ago I noticed that my "prime" spot was growing shadier and shadier by the day. When I picked out the location the leaves on the surrounding trees had not fully leafed out yet, and I certainly did not take that into consideration. In researching the best way to possibly remove the trees shading my garden, I came to discover that I have what appears to be a mini-forest of Tree of Heaven. Needless to say that I decided I was going to "fix" this problem and immediately got a gas powered pole saw and took some of them down (I now know that was a foolish thing to do if in fact it is Tree of Heaven). So my question is, do I have Tree of Heaven or is it some native look alike? If I do indeed have it, what would you recommend as the quickest and safest way of dispatching them? I have read the PDF by MD DNR regarding Tree of Heaven control, and it kind of freaked me out. The PDF listed a number of options to deal with these trees, and also listed the names of different herbicides should I go that route. My vegetable garden is located about 15 feet from the closest "tree", and I'm worried about the possibility of contamination if I apply an herbicide. The leaves do indeed give off an odor when damaged, but I have seen that described as a rotten peanut butter smell. The smell of these leaves are something of a skunky-florally type smell. Not something I want to be around all the time, but it's not as bad as some things that I've read Please advise as to how I should tackle this problem. Thank you VERY much for your time and your expertise in this matter, and I look forward to your guidance.- from Owings Mills, MD

Baltimore County Maryland

3 Responses

Yes, this is tree of heaven. It is designated a Maryland invasive. You will want to get rid of it. Herbicides you use will not contaminate your garden.

Another good source for how to eradicate tree of heaven is the website called "Weeds Gone Wild." You can Google it, then look in the factsheets. It has very helpful info on chemical control that give you options depending upon the time of year.


Thank you very much for replying. I was out back this weekend surveying the extent of the infestation, and it is worse than I originally thought. There are a number of trees that appear to be taller than the length of the trees to the back of my house. I'm worried that if I should kill these trees, they will cause damage to my home. Any suggestions for measuring such a distance? Also, if I do kill them, how exactly do they die? Will they eventually fall or no? I also noticed that I have tons of sprouts popping up in my yard. I guess that happened when I cut down a few trees. What is the best way to fight this whole infestation? Are there any State or Federal programs or resources that I would be able to take advantage of? Can you recommend a good professional that could assist?

The best way to handle your Tree of Heaven infestation is to spray the trees and suckers with one of the suggested systemic herbicides immediately. The longer you let them grow, the stronger they get and the more reserves they store in the soil to make more new trees. Cover the leaves well with herbicides. Most will die completely.

Suckers in the lawn can be mowed repeatedly or sprayed. You must use a systemic herbicide on the rest. Keep in mind that glyphosate is a total vegetation killer and you will need to shield your desirable plants. Triclopyr kills broadleaf and woody plants (i.e. not grasses.)

When you spray the trees with glyphosate or triclopyr, the leaves will turn brown and fall off. The trunks will stay upright for months, even years. Of course, eventually they will fall over but you may want to cut down the larger ones or have a tree service do it.

You don't have to measure the exact distance from the house/tree height (though there are suggestions online how to do that if you Google it.)
Simple stand back at a distance so that you can see the height of the tree, With a ruler/yardstick, "measure" it's height. Then rotate the measuring stick toward your house and see if that length you just measured would reach your house.

No, their are not government programs to handle this. This is not an unusual problem, unfortunately. But, it is important to kill these trees because they are a non-native invasive that damages our environment.

If you want to get professional help, we recommend a tree service company that has a certified arborist on staff who can assess the situation. We only recommend arborists certified by the International Society of Arboriculture. You can find one (s) and the tree companies at the ISA website:

You may not be able to kill all the Tree of Heaven in one application. A few may survive, so keep a sharp lookout for ones that survive and reapply herbicides next year and in subsequent years if necessary, so they don't start multiplying again.