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Belmar Beachcomber Blog


Tree Of Heaven: A Devil In Disguise

Another growing season is upon us, and the scourge of a tree known Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima) is slowly spreading in Belmar, New Jersey, and in other mid-Atlantic communities. This post will help you identify Tree of Heaven on your property so that you can remove the small sprouts before they establish roots and continue the unwanted creep of this highly invasive tree that attracts spotted lanternfly.

Ailanthus altissima is a fast-growing and aggressively reproducing tree that originated from China. Tree of Heaven is a problem in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and other states because it:

  • Is believed to be a preferred host for spotted lanternfly eggs, which are laid in the fall and hatch between April and June. Spotted lanternfly is an invasive insect also native to China. The bug is a growing environmental threat due to its voracious appetite for agricultural crops.

  • Spreads by hundreds of thousands of seeds per tree and through creeping root sprouts that can travel 50 feet from the original tree.

  • Produces chemicals in its roots that can kill other plants nearby.

  • Is an invasive, fast-growing species that can reach 80 feet tall and spread up to 50 feet at its crown.

  • Is highly adaptable to various soil conditions, including sandy soil commonly found at the Jersey Shore.

  • Is difficult to control once established, requiring treatment with chemical herbicides such as glyphosate, imazapyr, dicamba, or triclopyr.

  • Overcrowds other trees and limits the habitat for other species.

  • Has an extensive root system that has been known to cause damage to sewer lines and building foundations.

Due to its many unfavorable characteristics, Ailanthus altissima is among those named on the “Do Not Plant” list by the Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space New Jersey Invasive Species Strike Team. Rutgers University Cooperative Extension also has identified Tree of Heaven in its New Jersey Weed Gallery.

Penn State Extension notes that there is a "current push from spotted lanternfly officials" to remove Ailanthus from wooded areas along highways, residential neighborhoods, and anywhere else that it grows uncontrollably. RELATED: Belmar Honey - How Sweet It Is

If your neighbors have mature Trees of Heaven growing on their property, watch your yard for seedlings and sprouts. On the block behind my property, for example, several multi-family rental properties have overgrown Trees of Heaven that broadcast seeds into nearby yards, including mine. This has been happening for the past several years and getting worse as the source trees grow larger and larger.

I usually find Tree of Heaven sprouts hiding among the foliage of day lilies, cone flowers, and other bedding plants in my back yard. I am diligent about finding and removing the sprouts. It’s an ongoing chore from June through September, best done after a rain shower when the ground is softened a bit. The seeds can take root pretty much anywhere, so be vigilant in looking for them in your grass, flower beds, vegetable gardens, foundation plantings, and other spots. RELATED: Explore The Belmar Treasure Trail

Ailanthus Altissima Tree Of Heaven
Ailanthus altissima growing along a neighbor's foundation.

Tree Of Heaven And Spotted Lanternfly

Tree of Heaven is believed to be a preferred host site for the spotted lanternfly’s egg sacs. Spotted lanternfly has a voracious appetite, feeding on more than 70 plant species. It poses an environmental threat to hardwood trees and fruit crops in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, and other mid-Atlantic states.

The pests start laying their eggs in September. Their muddy-looking egg sacs can survive the winter until the next generation of nymphs starts to hatch the following May through July.

Initially, New Jersey had eight counties under quarantine for spotted lanternfly: Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Hunterdon, Mercer, Salem, Somerset, and Warren. But in February 2023, as the bad bugs have spread, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture added all New Jersey counties to the statewide quarantine zone in February 2023, according to this press release.

Fifty-one counties in Pennsylvania are also under quarantine for spotted lanternfly, including Bucks County, which is a short drive from the Belmar area. Central Park in New York City is also under attack from spotted lanternfly, according to recent news reports.

The Belmar Public Library, in partnership with the Belmar Environmental Commission, will be holding a free community education program about spotted lanternfly on Tuesday, May 9, at 6:00 p.m. Reserve your spot at

Resources: Learn More About Tree Of Heaven And Spotted Lanternfly


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Story and photos © copyright by Christine Cardellino, owner of and publisher of the award-winning Belmar Beachcomber Blog, a travel and tourism guide for the Belmar region of the Jersey Shore. Do not copy any content (including images) without our permission. All rights reserved.


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