By Associated Press - Sunday, July 26, 2015

DURHAM, N.H. (AP) - University of New Hampshire scientists have tracked the spread of an exotic tree native to Asia that has invaded white pine and other forests in the state.

Their research points to a single tree planted on campus in the early 1970s.

The New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station researchers analyzed the 25-year spread of the castor-aralia in the Durham area. They found it is capable of spreading via seed from planted trees to urban and natural forests in southeastern New Hampshire.

The large, deciduous tree can grow to be 100 feet tall. It’s capable of invading forests of sugar maple, beech and red oak, in addition to pine.

Little research has been done on the earliest stages of exotic tree invasions. Most invasions are not detected until they are well developed. The researchers say much can be learned from studying the early stages of tree invasions.

According to the National Park Service, Harvard University’s Arnold Arboretum distributed the plant to universities across the country in 1972 to celebrate the arboretum’s centennial. Based on the age of UNH’s tree, researchers said it is likely that the tree was a gift from Harvard.

“Although the impact of castor-aralia on North American communities and ecosystem processes is not yet known, colonization of forest understories and rapid height growth suggest it is capable of competing with economically important native plants. At present, early detection coupled with rapid removal is a sensible strategy,” said Tom Lee, associate professor of forest ecology and lead researcher on the study.

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