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Remove Ailanthus Trees to Help Protect Monty from Lanternfly Infestation

By Sarah Roberts


— It seems the lanternfly cannot reproduce without the ailanthus tree, also know as the tree of heaven.


While experts disagree on this issue, the NJ Department of Agriculture and the USDA are sending workers out to look for ailanthus trees and lanternflies. The state may have the authority to require homeowners to remove ailanthus trees growing on their property.


Hopefully, Montgomery Township will remove the ailanthus trees that are growing at the Public Works Facility on Harlingen Road.

Ailanthus trees have long, compound leaves, similar to those of the native black walnut trees and staghorn Sumac.


However, ailanthus trees have light gray bark, smoother than black walnut. If trees have round green fruits in their branches, they’re walnut trees. If they have upright clusters of fuzzy red berries, they’re staghorn sumac. If they have clusters of light green seeds about an inch long, tinged with red, they’re ailanthus.


A definitive test is the leaves. The leaflets of walnut and sumac have small teeth around the edges, while the leaflets of Ailanthus are smooth EXCEPT for one or two larger teeth near the base of each leaflet.

It’s also easy to tell an aitlanthus tree because the crushed leaves smell like rancid peanut butter.


Just to confuse us, ailanthus and sumac are dioecious, meaning some trees are male, some female. Only the female trees produce seeds.


I have noticed ailanthus trees along the railroad in Montgomery, and along River Road. They are also on Route 206 south of Opossum Road, and on into Princeton. I am told they are scattered around the Sourland Mountain, and near recent construction sites, because the seeds may be spread in the dried mud that can collect on heavy equipment.


Montgomery’s Open Space Committee is trying to get ailanthus trees removed anywhere they might be found on township open space.


Lanternflies lay their eggs in September (now!) They will lay them on any smooth surface, such as a rock, a tree trunk, a car, or your house. They may be whitish for a day or two, then they turn gray or light tan. They look like a patch of dried mud, or fungus. Eventually the surface may crack, just like mud.


If you see anything that looks like a patch of mud or fungus, it might be lanternfly eggs, so please scrape it off with a credit card or a putty knife, put it in a plastic bag or container filled with rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer and put it in the garbage, or burn it, or smash all the eggs! Don’t just leave them lying on the ground unless you’re sure you’ve crushed them.


There are helpful videos online that tell you how to be sure.


Please help to locate and remove ailanthus trees to stop the spotted lanternfly. Just imagine Montgomery without trees! ■

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