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  • Grows as tall as 30 meters and 2 meters at the base

  • Introduced from China and Twaiwan but can be confused with native species such as black walnut, sumac, and ash


Tree of Heaven
(Ailanthus altissima)

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Quick Identification

  • Bark is pale grey and twigs a light brown

  • Large (30-120 cm) pinnately compound leaves

  • Flowers are yellow-green and grow in large clusters

  • A strong unpleasant odor when crushed

Outcompetes native species by taking up nutrients, blocking sunlight, and releasing toxins into the soil to inhibit the growth of other plants.  Its root system is large and aggressive, taking up space and damaging infrastructure. The tree is also habitat for the spotted lanternfly and brown marmorated stink bug which are two serious agricultural pests.

Its ability to propagate from the stump and root fragments means that mechanical treatment is largely ineffective. Herbicide treatments are available. 

Five petaled yellow-green flowers grow in large clusters.  

Leaves & Stems
The compound leaves are are about 1 meter long are composed of leaflets each 5 to 15 centimeters long, appearing frond like.  They are dark green with lighter green veins.  Bark is light grey and lightly textured.


Preferred Habitat
Thrives in urban areas, but also inhabits fields, roadsides and forests.

A long, creeping root system makes the tree difficult to eradicate and can damage infrastructure.

Reproduction & Dispersal
These tree primarily reproduce by seeds which are spread by wind.  They can also reproduce from roots and step fragments.

Tree of heaven has a high germination rate and produces around 300,000 annually. Single seeds are encased in papery wings which allow the seeds to disperse.  As they dry, seed pods go from light green to an orange-red.

Interesting Facts
When crushed, tree of heaven has a strong odor sometimes described as burnt rubber.  This has earned it the nickname 'stinking sumac.'

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