The sale of Mayday trees may be stopped in Anchorage

Published: Jul. 11, 2017 at 2:38 PM AKDT
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There is an invasive tree in Anchorage that's taken over up to 90 percent of some forests. It's called the European Bird Cherry, but if you live in Anchorage, you probably call it a Mayday tree.

Many were brought to Anchorage in the 1980s in order to beautify parks. The trees are known for their fragrant white flowers that typically bloom in May, as well as for their ability to survive -- and thrive -- despite the colder months.

However, the tree can be toxic to moose and harmful for salmon, which rely on the insects that eat the tree. Plus, Mayday trees take over the space for native plants.

Of the top 100 invasive species in Anchorage, the Mayday tree is listed in the top 20.

But an ordinance introduction by assemblyman Forrest Dunbar would stop the sale of the tree in the municipality. It would not affect trees that are already planted on private property.

"We didn't have the resources to go and remove these trees from places, and it's not going to impact them on private property or anything like that," Dunbar said. "But we figured, when you find yourself in the hole, the first thing you gotta do is stop digging. Stopping the sale of more of these, in the municipality, is the sort of first thing we can do."

Dunbar said most local nurseries have already stopped selling Mayday trees, but some big box stores have continued the sales. This is because the decision of what to stock the shelves with is typically made



Over the years, the Mayday tree population has continued to grow. After the flowers die-off, birds eat the Mayday tree berries. From there, they either spread the berries across town when they fly, or poop out the seeds.

Tim Stallard with the Anchorage Invasive Plant program said he has heard of three cases where the trees have caused the deaths of moose.

Stallard says the trees grow rapidly and then take up space. They push out native plants like birch trees, fireweed, alder, cottonwood, berries and wildflowers, which moose depend on for food. He says places like Valley of the Moon, the Rogers Park neighborhood and Tikishla Park have prolific numbers of Mayday trees.

"With any sort of problem, the first step is prevention," Stallard said. "Whether it's wildfire or crime, we try to prevent these big problems as much as we can. So preventing the sale of a problem species, like these Mayday trees, is kind of the first step to addressing the problem."

The assembly will vote on the issue in August.