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Tree of Heaven

Ailanthus altissima

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Simaroubaceae (Quassia)
Deciduous tree
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
30 metres tall
Gardens, parks, towns.

Yellow, 5 petals
Yellowish-green to reddish flowers, appearing in panicles up to 50cm long. Pollinated by bees.
A many-seeded, winged fruit called a samara. The seeds ripen from September to November.
Pinnate leaves with up to 41 leaflets. The leaves are alternately arranged along the stems. The untoothed leaflets are in opposite pairs. Tree of Heaven is similar in appearance to Stagshorn Sumach (Rhus typhina) but the leaves are longer and with more leaflets.
The male trees have leaves which are notorious for smelling unpleasantly of peanuts.
Other Names:
Ailanthus, Baked Sewage Tree, China Sumac, Chinese Sumac, Chinese Tree of Heaven, Chinese Tree-of-heaven, Copal Tree, Ghetto Palm, Kerosene Tree, Lacquer Tree, Rotting Carrion Tree, Stink Tree, Stinking Cedar, Stinking Sumac, Tree from Hell, Tree-in-a-hurry, Varnish Tree, Varnishtree.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Ailanthus altissima, also known as the Tree of Heaven, is a deciduous tree in the Simaroubaceae family. It is native to China but has been introduced and naturalized in many parts of the world, including North America, Europe and Australia. The tree can grow up to 30 meters tall and has a fast-growing habit. It has large, compound leaves composed of 11-41 leaflets, and produces small, greenish-yellow flowers in large clusters in the summer. It produces a large number of winged fruit that turn brown when ripe. The tree prefers well-drained soil and can tolerate a wide range of soil types and pH levels, and can grow in full sun to partial shade. It can be propagated by seed or cuttings. It is considered an invasive species in some areas, because it can outcompete native vegetation and is difficult to control. It is also known as the "ghetto palm" because of its ability to grow in poor soil and urban areas.


The Tree of Heaven, also known as Ailanthus altissima, is a highly invasive plant species that has become a major problem in many areas of the world. Native to China and Taiwan, it was first introduced to Europe and North America as an ornamental plant in the 1700s. Despite its popularity as a decorative tree, the Tree of Heaven has since proven to be one of the most invasive species in the world.

One of the main reasons for its success as an invasive species is its ability to grow in a wide range of conditions. It can tolerate harsh urban environments and is able to grow in areas with poor soil quality. Additionally, it is highly resistant to many common pests and diseases, which has allowed it to spread rapidly in many areas.

The Tree of Heaven also has a remarkable reproductive ability. It can produce up to 300,000 seeds per year, which can be spread by wind, water, and wildlife. This has allowed it to quickly establish itself in new areas, outcompeting native species for resources.

Not only does the Tree of Heaven pose a threat to native ecosystems, it also has negative impacts on human health and infrastructure. The tree produces a toxic chemical that can cause respiratory problems for those who come into contact with it, and its roots have been known to damage sidewalks, buildings, and other structures.

Despite its invasive nature, the Tree of Heaven is still widely cultivated in many parts of the world. It is important to understand the risks associated with this species and to carefully consider the impact it could have on local ecosystems before planting it.

In areas where the Tree of Heaven has become established, it is important to take action to control its spread. This can be done through a combination of manual removal, chemical control, and biological control using natural predators.

The Tree of Heaven may be aesthetically pleasing, but its invasive nature makes it a major threat to ecosystems and human health. It is important to be mindful of the potential consequences of planting this species and to take action to control its spread in areas where it has become established.

In addition to the ecological and health impacts, the Tree of Heaven can also have significant economic consequences. The tree's fast growth and large size make it a potential hazard for power lines and other infrastructure. This can lead to power outages, property damage, and costly repairs.

The Tree of Heaven's aggressive root system can also cause problems for landscaping and gardening. Its roots can penetrate deep into the ground and outcompete other plants for nutrients and water. This can make it difficult for other plants to thrive, leading to a decline in biodiversity and aesthetic value in urban and suburban landscapes.

Despite its many negative impacts, some communities are beginning to see the value in removing the Tree of Heaven and replacing it with native species. This not only helps to restore ecological balance, but it also provides habitat for a variety of wildlife, including birds and insects.

If you live in an area where the Tree of Heaven is present, it is important to educate yourself about its impacts and to take action to help control its spread. This could involve removing the tree from your own property, supporting local efforts to remove it from public spaces, and spreading awareness about the dangers of this invasive species.

The Tree of Heaven is a highly invasive species that has a significant impact on ecosystems, human health, and the economy. It is important to understand the risks associated with this species and to take action to control its spread and protect our communities from its negative impacts.

In addition to the efforts to remove the Tree of Heaven, it is also important to prevent its introduction to new areas. This can be done by avoiding planting the tree in gardens or landscaping projects and by being aware of its presence in natural areas.

If you come across a Tree of Heaven, it is important to remove it as soon as possible to prevent it from spreading. This should only be done by trained professionals who are equipped with the proper tools and knowledge to safely remove the tree.

It is also important to properly dispose of the tree after it has been removed. This will help to prevent the spread of its seeds and minimize the risk of it establishing itself in new areas.

One of the biggest challenges in controlling the spread of the Tree of Heaven is the lack of awareness about its impacts. It is important to educate others about the dangers of this species and to work together to help control its spread.

In conclusion, the Tree of Heaven is a major threat to ecosystems and human health, and it is important to take action to control its spread and prevent its introduction to new areas. This requires a collaborative effort between individuals, communities, and organizations, and it is important to be aware of the risks associated with this invasive species.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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