Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

A Tree Grows in Wood-Ridge ... Relentlessly

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

A Tree Grows in Wood-Ridge ... Relentlessly

Article excerpt

Today's topic is not the Motown tune "Heaven Must Have Sent You," which was penned by the crackerjack writing team of Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland.

That song, as you may know, was recorded by The Elgins in 1966 before becoming a MONSTER hit for Bonnie Pointer in the disco era.


"Don't know where you come from baby/Don't know where you been my baby/Heaven must have sent you into my arms."

A classic.

Which brings me to our real topic du jour, Ailanthus altissima, another monster from the family simaroubaceae.


Ailanthus came to us from China, the land that also spawned porcelain, dominoes, moo shoo pork, the kite, the hand grenade and, possibly, spaghetti.

(Time has not been kind to that old chestnut about Marco Polo discovering spaghetti in China and then bringing it back to Italy, so his mother could make it for him, every Sunday, with sausage and meatballs. According to one online source, the Marco Polo story originated as part of an advertising campaign for a Canadian spaghetti company.)

Ailanthus, also known as the tree of heaven, is a common invasive plant that can grow to 50 feet and multiply like nobody's business.

About 12 years ago, I found one of these pesky things in my backyard and showed it to a friend who was more in tune with greenery and satanic forces than I was.

"Get rid of it!" he screamed. "It's evil! It spreads everywhere! It's a MONSTER!"

So, naturally, I dug it up and transplanted it in another part of my yard.

I did this because my neighbors had built a large deck that looked directly into my kitchen window, where I often brew coffee, scramble eggs and broil lamb chops while dancing around in my skivvies to Bonnie Pointer songs.

"If this thing really does grow fast," I thought to myself, "perhaps it will give me some privacy."

I planted the weed -- then about 8 inches high -- at the side of the house, gave it a little water and wished it well.

Three days later, it was 6 feet high and had begun eating cats and small children.

Oh, no. What have I done?

In short order, I began to fret. And panic. And sing.

"I don't know where you come from baby ..."

My tree of heaven did block the view into my kitchen from my neighbors' deck. …

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