Bird Cherry trees often draw people in the moment the spring bloom hits, but Anchorage plant experts say they’re getting problematic.


“They rapidly take over and they crowd out everything else,” Tim Stallard, who serves as an invasive plant program coordinator with the Anchorage Park Foundation, said. “They’ve formed what’s called a mono-culture, kind of just a single species growing there.”


Stallard said the Bird Cherry trees, commonly known as May Day trees, are highly invasive and are harming what wildlife and salmon depend on.


“They displace the birch trees,” he said. “Willows, cottonwoods, roses, berries and grasses. Salmon in our streams are eating insects and those insects are feeding primarily on leaf litter from our native trees.”


Stallard said May Day trees support a smaller number and lower diversity of insects, meaning while they contribute to what insects feed off of, it is likely not enough to support the demand from salmon.


On Tuesday evening, an ordinance by Anchorage Assembly member Forrest Dunbar will be introduced, which would ban the sale of May Day trees as well as Reed Canary grass. Anyone who violates this would be fined $250. There will be a public hearing in August on this resolution.


Stallard said the tree isn’t native to Alaska and its roots are in Northern Europe and Asia.


“Nobody knew it was invasive,” Stallard said about what brought the tree here many years ago. The Municipality of Anchorage stopped planting them when officials learned of its invasive nature, but Stallard hopes the ordinance will put a greater public awareness on the issue.


“Our focus for now is containing the problem,” he said. “They’re still spreading rapidly — so first, reverse that. And we also want to help other communities across the state catch it before it gets out of hand.”


At Faltz Nursery in Anchorage, landscape architect Benjamin Brown said they’re slowly phasing out the sale of May Day trees. Brown said it’s often in high demand when it’s spring.


“They’re a beautiful tree,” he said. “They’re the first tree that blooms in the spring. It’s a very fragrant and showy bloom.”


Brown says they’ve started carrying fewer May Day trees because they’ve learned of the invasive impact the plant has. He says with high public demand also comes a need for more public awareness about the potential issues it could lead to.


“We definitely educate people,” he said. “We let people know.”


Brown says he understands why people would back this ordinance.


Stallard says there aren’t many places that sell Reed Canary grass anymore.


There will also be an “invasive weed smackdown” event on Saturday, July 15, hosted by the group Citizens Against Noxious Weeds Invading the North in Anchorage.


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