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Krystine Hetel is the owner of a rental property in Haverhill who is having a problem with a group of trees called Ailanthuses. They are commonly called "Weed Trees," "Chinese Trees of Heaven," and "Stinking Sumac" for their ability to grow easily, their beauty, and their strong odor when a leaf is broken off.

HAVERHILL | An invasive, foreign tree species has taken root along the Merrimack River, and in one case is damaging two homes and the flood wall that protects the neighborhood, City Councilor Krystine Hetel said.

She knows about the problem intimately | her three-story, brick apartment complex at 106 River St. is one of the two affected properties. The other is Parkers Antiques next door.

A cluster of six trees called ailanthus, which is native to China and also called "stinking sumacs" and "trees of heaven," grow too fast to trim back from the home, she said.

Their roots can damage foundations and sewers. One tree about 5 inches in diameter is growing out of the flood wall that keeps back the Merrimack River.

"They are just out of control," she said. "It is a weed, and it's growing like a weed."

Hetel said residents should beware of ailanthus, which is on the state's invasive species list, and pluck it from the ground when they first see saplings.

She wishes she killed the trees when they were young, but she waited too long and now they are nearly growing over her building.

She has received permission from the Conservation Commission to remove the trees and replace them with native species, such as red maples or green ash.

The ailanthus tree can grow to a height of 80 feet with leaves of 1 to 4 feet in length. The tree can grow fast and destroy native plant life.

Parkers Antiques owners Richard and Jeri Parker said the trees have grown too thick and tall to handle anymore.

"They are a pain in the neck," Jeri Parker said. "They grow, and I cannot trim them anymore. They grow just like a weed."

The plant first came to America in 1750 with a missionary returning from China, according to The Nature Conservancy. Each year, a tree can produce up to 350,000 seeds, which are easily spread by the wind.

Steven Strom of Valley Tree Service, who has been hired to uproot Hetel's ailanthuses, said the invasive species is growing all over the city. The trees reproduce quickly by seed and underground via roots, and the government has banned the plant from being sold or planted, he said.

"They are on the bad-guy list," he said.

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