tree of heaven

Sapindales > Simaroubaceae > Ailanthus altissima (P. Mill.) Swingle
Synonym(s): ailanthus, copal tree, tree-of-heaven

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

  • Weeds of the Week - USDA Forest Service, Northeastern Area, Forest Health Protection

Selected Images from Invasive.org

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Feature(s); Glandular notch at the base of the leaflets. Martin County, KY
Chris Evans, River to River CWMA, Bugwood.org
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Feature(s); Distinctive glands on ears at leaflet bases.
James H. Miller, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org
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Feature(s); leaf scar and bud
Jan Samanek, State Phytosanitary Administration, Bugwood.org
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Bark;
Paul Wray, Iowa State University, Bugwood.org
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Flower(s); Staminate inflorescence
Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut, Bugwood.org
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Flower(s);
Jan Samanek, State Phytosanitary Administration, Bugwood.org
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Foliage;
Chuck Bargeron, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org
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Feature(s); leaf gland in September
James H. Miller, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org
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Fruit(s);
Richard Old, XID Services, Inc., Bugwood.org
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Foliage;
Jan Samanek, State Phytosanitary Administration, Bugwood.org
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Foliage;
Paul Wray, Iowa State University, Bugwood.org
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Foliage;
Paul Wray, Iowa State University, Bugwood.org
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Fruit(s); in September
James H. Miller, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org
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Infestation;
Chris Evans, River to River CWMA, Bugwood.org
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Infestation;
Chris Evans, River to River CWMA, Bugwood.org
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Infestation; Infestation along roadside
Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut, Bugwood.org
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Infestation;
David J. Moorhead, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org
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Infestation;
David J. Moorhead, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org
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Infestation;
Chuck Bargeron, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org
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Sapling(s); Growing in recently cut-over area. Polk County, IA
Chris Evans, River to River CWMA, Bugwood.org
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Fruit(s);
Chuck Bargeron, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org
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Seedling(s);
Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut, Bugwood.org
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Tree(s); Trees growing along Interstate Highway 75 in Forsyth, Georgia
Chuck Bargeron, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org
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Tree(s); August
James H. Miller, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org
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Tree(s);
Richard Old, XID Services, Inc., Bugwood.org
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Tree(s);
Ian Trueman, University of Wolverhampton, Bugwood.org
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Control;
Nancy Fraley, USDI National Park Service, Bugwood.org
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Fruit(s);
Steve Hurst, USDA NRCS PLANTS Database, Bugwood.org
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Diagram or Graphic; Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. Illustrated flora of the northern states and Canada. Vol. 2: 446.
USDA PLANTS Database, USDA NRCS PLANTS Database, Bugwood.org
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Invasive Reference(s):

Check Invasive.org for most current lists.
  • Alabama - IPC List
  • California - Invasive Plant Inventory
  • Connecticut - Noxious Weed Law
  • Georgia - EPPC list
  • Kentucky - EPPC List
  • Massachusetts - Noxious Weed Law
  • New Hampshire - Noxious Weed Law
  • Rhode Island - Noxious Weed Law
  • South Carolina - Noxious Weed Law
  • Tennessee - EPPC List
  • Texas - Invasive Plant List
  • Vermont - Noxious Weed Law
  • Virginia - Invasive Alien Plant Species
  • Mid-Atlantic - EPPC List
  • Invasive Plants: Western North America
  • Invasive Plants: Guide to Identification and the Impacts and Control of Common North American Species
  • Invasive Plants of the Upper Midwest
  • Invasive Plant Atlas of New England
  • Invasive Plant Atlas of the Mid-South
  • Midwest Invasive Plant Network


External Links


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