Tree Hugger Ready to Yell Timber

Homeowners want "invasive" trees removed from the Bay Area.

A non-native tree is putting down roots across the Bay Area area and Menlo Park residents want it out.

The Ailanthus tree, which is also known as a Chinese Sumac tree, is proliferating, but former Palo Alto mayor Peter Drekmeier is advocating for its removal.

“I've been aware of the problems caused by ailanthus for a while,” Drekmeier said. “But it wasn't until I moved into a house a block from San Francisquito Creek 1.5 years ago that I realized it was invading our watershed.”

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the Ailanthus is an invasive tree that crowds out native species and creates damage to pavement and foundations in cities.

Drekmeier brought the issue up to the Palo Alto City Council at its June 26 meeting during the same evening the council approved funding to remove another invasive plant, the Spartina trees, from the Baylands.

He said he is working on getting funding passed by the City and thinks Menlo Park and other cities need to “work together to eradicate invasive non-native species.”

Bill Wohler, a Menlo Park resident, is very “concerned” about the trees.

“And that’s coming from me, who’s a big tree-hugger,” Wohler said. “I like saving tree-stuff, but this one is a pain in the butt for just living. I spent five years everyday pulling that weed from my yard in Palo Alto.”

Wohler said he moved to Menlo Park a year ago after living in Palo Alto for seven years and now sees the tree “everywhere”.

“Once you see it and identify it, you’ll start seeing it everywhere,” Wohler said. “The Menlo Park parking lot behind the BevMo has some.”

He said he’d like to see the tree outlawed and the people in the area educated so it does not get planted anymore. He said funding for removal would be “great and much needed.”

Environmental Quality Commissioner Mitch Slomiak said the issue has not yet been brought to the attention of the and could not comment yet.


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