This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V24", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
"T. F. B ," Allegheny, Pa., writes: "On reading the following item I deemed it so very unjust that I clipped it for your judgment:
" In other cities the attention of the boards of health have been called to the fact that where the ailanthus trees grew, in a great many instances persons have been poisoned, and they have been declared unhealthy and their removal ordered from the public streets and parks. The trees are cultivated in the cities because they give much shade and will thrive when other trees will die. Pittsburg and Allegheny have many of these trees. In the Allegheny parks a number of the walks are bordered with the ailanthus trees, and in the East End and other parts of this city, they are found in abundance".
"The ailanthus is in frequent demand, on account of its quick growth, and although common here yet I never heard so serious a charge made against it. However, on referring to the U. S. Dispensatory, thirteenth edition, Ailanthus glandulosa is found described under the 'Non officinal Medicines,' and it is stated that 'Prof. Heltet, of the marine medical school at Toulon, France, experimented on dogs with the powdered bark - powdered leaves and various preparations of the bark. As a general result they were found to possess cathartic and anthelmintic properties. The oil of the bark is so powerful that persons exposed to the vapors, in preparing the extract, are liable to be seized with vertigo, cold sweats and vomiting. A fact worthy of remark is that neither the bark nor its preparation, taken internally, produce vomiting in man, while this effect is determined by the inhalation of its vapors when boiled.'
" From the foregoing there seems to be ground for the serious charge. Is it not probable that the odorous principle (volatile oil) of the flowers is analogous to the oil of the bark ? If so, it would explain what to me at first seemed an unfounded assertion. The pistillate variety of A. glandulosum being exempt from this nauseous odor, why not plant it, as recommended in a former number of the Monthly".
[It will be a bad day for Pittsburg and Allegheny should a crusade arise against the ailanthus. Thousands of trees have "pisen in lem," as some of the ignoramuses say of the allanthug, and a great deal more than ever the allanthus has. There is infinitely more poison in an oleander, yet we have seen big bushes in scores of Pittsburg yards without any one complaining of ever being hurt.
In early times the allanthus was believed to be a Rhus, and to this day it is known as the "Varnish tree in Japan" in many parts of France, which is very nearly or quite the same as our poison ash, Rhus venenata. It is more than likely that what poisonous reputation many yet adhere to the plant, is the remains of the old confusion of names.
A tenant house on the property of the writer has been surrounded by ailanthuses for at least a quarter of a century, with not a breath of suspicion as to any poisonous effusion from them.
You may depend on it that any serious noxious quality from them is all nonsense. - Ed. G. M].