tree-of-heaven USDA PLANTS SYMBOL: AIAL
Ailanthus altissima (P. Mill.) Swingle
Synonym(s): tree of heaven, ailanthus, copal tree, stinking shumac, varnish tree, Chinese sumac, paradise-tree

Tree of heaven is a rapidly growing, typically small tree up to 80 ft. (24.4 m) in height and 6 ft. (1.8 m) in diameter. It has pinnately compound leaves that are 1-4 ft. (0.3-1.2 m) in length with 10-41 leaflets. Flowering occurs in early summer, when large clusters of yellow flowers develop above the leaves. Fruit produced on female plants are tan to reddish, single winged and wind and water-dispersed. Tree of heaven resembles the sumacs and hickories, but is easily distinguished by the glandular, notched base on each leaflet and large leaf scars on the twigs. It is extremely tolerant of poor soil conditions and can even grow in cement cracks. Trees are not shade tolerant, but thrive in disturbed forests or edges. Dense clonal thickets displace native species and can rapidly take over fields, meadows and harvested forests. Tree of heaven, native to Asia, was first introduced into North America in 1748 by a Pennsylvania gardener. It was widely planted in cities because of its ability to grow in poor conditions.

Identification, Biology, Control and Management Resources