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Road Survey of the Invasive Tree-of-Heaven (Ailanthus altissima) in Virginia

  • Thomas J. McAvoy (a1), Amy L. Snyder (a1), Nels Johnson (a2), Scott M. Salom (a1) and Loke T. Kok (a1)...

Tree-of-heaven is an invasive, nonnative species that invades newly disturbed areas and forms large monospecific stands. It was surveyed from a vehicle along 5,175 km of roads in Virginia in 2004, 2005, 2010, and 2011. Fifty-eight percent of every 1.6-km road segment had at least one tree-of-heaven. Mean density of tree-of-heaven throughout the roads surveyed in Virginia was 39 km−1. The interaction between road classification (interstate, primary, and secondary) and physiographic region (mountain, piedmont, and tidewater) was significant; consequently, the density of tree-of-heaven along the different road classifications depended on the effect of the physiographic region and vice versa. Tree-of-heaven was fairly evenly distributed throughout Virginia ranging from 39 to 78% of 1.6-km road segments infested, but had a greater variation in density. Current areas with low densities could increase in density in the future. The highest density of tree-of-heaven was along interstate highways in the mountains (85 km−1), followed by the tidewater (63 km−1), and piedmont (46 km−1) regions. Primary roads had a moderate density of tree-of-heaven with a range of 24 to 36 km−1. Secondary roads had lower densities with 12 km−1 and 41 km−1 in the tidewater and mountain regions, respectively. Tree-of-heaven spreads primarily by wind-dispersed seeds from female trees, and populations bordering roadsides could serve as seed sources for further local and landscape spread.

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Invasive Plant Science and Management
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