They grow fast and they reproduce fast. I don't ordinarily get to excited when someone shouts INVASIVE, but these are pretty invasive. If you don't control them aggressively, they will take over pretty quickly.
The trees are stinky. The wood is weak and prone to split with even moderately "bad" weather. It does burn and make for mediocre firewood according to my woodstove homies on the forum.
Because the wood is brittle and weak, it has a reputation for being tricky to cut down. You could do a google search for barber chair tree. Here's one example:
It has been promoted in some places as a biofuel/biomass/plantation species, but I am pretty leery.
Cutting and mowing and cutting and mowing will kill them off eventually.
Thanks for the info Troy. I did not know they were so difficult to cut down. That could have ended really bad for the guy in the video. Luckily none of mine are as large as that one. All I know is for everyone I cut four more pop up.
I had a huge one next to my gardens at my old house. I just kept it all chopped and dropped around the trunk and the rest of the yard. It is easy to pull out seedlings or runners but the root always breaks off making full removal nearly impossible. If faced by this tree again i would coppice it when still young and then limit the circumference of runners with a scythe. Basically use it as an organic matter pump every season, never letting it flower. It's not as bad as some say, my gardens were right next to it and they were good, it's when you ignore it that this tree puts up a dense stand and becomes a rapid multiplier.
Bark is used in traditional Chinese medicine to cure some mental illnesses.....thats the only benefit I know of......The tree is exceptional at colonizing disturbed areas and is nearly impossible to kill....it produces an alleopathic chemical that suppresses the growth of many plants so not good to use as mulch. I am sure however that it can be used as firewood.
I HATE these trees as in California with our long growing season they are almost impossible to kill unless you dig up the stumps. I wouldn't burn them as it can make you sick and I know people who have done so. I like the idea of growing mushrooms with them but am still a bit leary due to the toxicity of the plant. I can't believe they are a plant people recommend as out here they are like weeds.
Hey Michael, I HATE them too. I did find a guy on YouTube that has successfully cultivated oyster mushrooms from them. These are live trees he inoculates killing the tree and getting edible shrooms! I'm going to give it a go. The channel is BroBryceGardens. I hope I have the success he had.
In Tao Orion's book Beyond the War on Invasive Species she says that "compared to cotton, cultivating tree of heaven for fiber helps mitigate climate change, reduces pesticide use, remediates heavy-metal laden soils, and has the potential to create economic outcomes for people living in invaded ecosystems"
Does anyone know anything about how to use this plant for fiber?
I don't know if there is something unique about this tree, but "regular" trees are pulped (de-barked and then run through a giant grinder), treated with some heat and chemicals (acids primarily) to further break it down and remove the lignin. Then it's bleached with peroxide (used to be chlorine = more polution).
From there it can turn into paper and other fiber based products.
It is about a third of my lot. I have a few that are almost a foot in diameter. They are all the things that have been said about them.
After 15 years of active battle, I really don't believe you can ever truly get rid of them. So I accepted their existence and found that a heavily coppiced patch (about 10 feet by 30 feet), will produce a huge pile of pretty straight sticks about 1/2 in in diameter and four to six feet long by the end of a season. The sticks I use for fuel in my rocket hot-water loop stable/chicken coop heater in the winter. I have also used them as woven stick fence panels, and chicken crates, but they are not strong enough to keep goats contained. I think they also would be excellent for those salvaged material beehives that are on Permies in another thread.
In my observation, they do not seem to contain the same toxicity when dead as they do when alive. Goats will not eat starts, but they do eat the tops that blow out, as well as the big seed clusters. They provide shade, need no maintenance and do the whole carbon-exchange thing, and seem to be a good nursery for other tree starts such as Idaho native red mulberry and black locust, catalpa and walnut at my place. The only tree that I have planted that can choke ailanthus out Siberian Elm (Another, curse) and Hybrid Poplars (used for making toilet paper in the PNW).
I doubt I will ever go down the road of making fiber from them, but once you have them, you need to resolve that they will always be around. Even if only at the edges.
You should consider finding some Ailanthus silk moths - I've seen them here in Oregon, and they were originally imported to eat Ailanthus leaves to make silk. APparently the cloth is a cross between silk and hemp, very strong and durable, and many in the late 19th/early 20th century thought it would replace cotton - that's why the trees were planted in many areas.