Alien Busters - ‘The Wax Tree’

2016-07-19 06:00
Toxicodendron succedaneum  Photo: supplied

Toxicodendron succedaneum Photo: supplied

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By Mieke van Tienhoven

MANY invasive alien plants are unwanted because they are poisonous. Such is the case with the wax tree (Toxicodendron succedaneum), also commonly known as a Rhus. It is quite common in the Upper Highway area.

Hayley Walker of Winston Park discovered its toxic properties after her son Brayden, who was 6 years old at the time, had a severe allergic reaction to it. He had been playing in the sawdust of a wax tree that had been felled, when his face and arms started to swell. “His face was so swollen that his eyes were little slits. We rushed him to hospital, where he was treated for several days. His arms developed an itching rash that blistered. He was kept in isolation as we didn’t know the cause, and only afterwards realized that the wax tree was responsible.”

Not everyone is susceptible, but in some cases, reactions can be severe, and can include respiratory distress. The resin is also very persistent and can stick to tools for several months, so great care should be exercised when tackling this tree.

The glowing autumn colours of its leaves are conspicuous now, making it easy to spot at this time of year. The red and orange leaves are compound (9-15 leaflets), and the brown berry-like fruit may persist after all the leaves have fallen. Make sure you mark it now to kill it with an appropriate herbicide when it is growing vigorously in spring. Smaller trees can be easily pulled out now (wear gloves and protect your arms to avoid contact with the sap!). Even the leaves contain enough sap to cause skin irritation and blisters. This is one tree you don't want in your garden.

The wax tree is a category 1b invasive alien plant, and according to NEMBA regulations (2014), it must be removed and destroyed.

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