Ailanthus altissima commonly known as tree of heaven, ailanthus, or in Standard Chinese as chouchun, is a deciduous tree in the family Simaroubaceae. It is native to both Northeast and central China, as well as Taiwan. Unlike other members of the genus Ailanthus, it is found in temperate climates rather than the tropics. The tree Grows rapidly and is capable of Reaching heights of 15 meters (49 ft) in 25 years. However, the species is also short lived and rarely lives more than 50 years, though its Remarkable suckering ability makes it Possible for this tree to clone itself indefinitely and live considerably longer (since they are Linked to the mother tree and thus Partly fed by it , the suckers are less vulnerable than the seedlings and can grow faster).
In China, the tree of heaven has a long and rich history. It was mentioned in the oldest extant Chinese dictionary and listed in countless Chinese medical texts for its purported ability to cure ailments ranging from mental illness to baldness. The roots, leaves and bark are still used today in traditional Chinese medicine, primarily as an astringent. The tree has been grown extensively both in China and abroad as a host plant for the ailanthus silkmoth, a moth involved in silk production. Ailanthus has Become a part of western culture as well, with the tree Serving as the central metaphor and Subject Matter of the best-selling American novel A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith.
The first tree was brought from China to Europe in the 1740s and to the United States in 1784. It was one of the first trees brought west during a time when chinoiserie was dominating European arts, and was initially hailed as a beautiful garden specimen. However, enthusiasm soon waned after gardeners became familiar with its habits and its suckering Foul smelling odour. Despite this, it was used extensively as a street tree during much of the 19th century. Outside of Europe and the United States, the plant has been spread to many other areas beyond its native range. In a number of these, it has Become an invasive species due to its ability to both colonise disturbed areas quickly and to suppress Competition with allelopathic chemicals. It is considered a noxious weed in Australia, the United States, New Zealand and many countries of central, eastern and southern Europe. The tree also resprouts vigorously when cut, making its eradication difficult and time consuming. In many urban areas, it has Acquired the derisive nicknames of "ghetto palm", "stink tree", and "tree of Hell".
Also called shumac, stinking sumac, Chinese sumac, and ailanthus, it was introduced by a gardener Pennsylvania in 1748 and was made commercially available by 1840. It gained some notoriety as the species featured in the book "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" by Betty Smith.
Distribution and Habitat
Tree of heaven is reported to be invasive in natural areas in 30 states Across continental US and Hawaii. It is highly adaptable to disturbance and a huge range of soil types and conditions, Grows best in full sun and is tolerant of Drought.
A tree common in urban areas where it causes damage to sewers and structures, ailanthus poses a Greater Threat to Agriculture and natural ecosystems. It is a vigorous tree growing and prolific seeder that establishes dense stands that push out Natives. Tree of Heaven contains chemicals, including ailanthone, that have been found to have strong allelopathic (herbicidal) affects on the growth of other plants Which help it establish and spread.
Description and Biology
Plant: deciduous tree that can reach 70 ft. in height; Twigs with smooth, pale gray bark, and Twigs that are light chestnut brown, especially in the dormant season; dioecious meaning plants are either male or female; wood soft, weak, coarse-grained and creamy white to light brown in color; leaves, stems and some flowers have a strong, unpleasant odor to Offensive likened to cat urine or Rotting peanuts or cashews.
Leaves: alternate, large (1-4 ft. Long), Compound, with 11-25 smaller leaflets, each with one to several glandular teeth near the base.
Flowers, fruits and seeds, large showy clusters of small yellowish-green flowers produced during June; in summer, flat, Twisted, single-seeded fruits or winged samaras are produced on female trees and trees may remain on for long periods of time; Individual trees may Produce an Estimated 325,000 seeds per year.
Spreads: reproduces by seed and by vigorous re-sprouting, especially in response to injury or Breakage Such as cutting.
Look-alikes: Compound-leaved trees and shrubs like staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina), ash (Fraxinus sp.), Black walnut (Juglans nigra) and Hickory (Carya sp.). Sumac has fuzzy, reddish-brown stems and leaves; Opposite ash species have leaves; ash, black walnut, sumac and Hickory leaf margins are completely or mostly toothed; black walnuts have large green fruits.
Prevention and Control
Do not plant or tree of heaven spread its seeds when moving soil from infested areas. Before attempting control, ensure that you are not mistaking a native species like staghorn sumac, ash or walnut tree of heaven for. Elimination of tree of heaven requires Diligence. Targeting large female trees for control Will help reduce spread by seed. Ashamed vegetative spread by male and female trees Will Continue to be a Threat, Elimination of all trees Must be the long term goal. Systemic herbicides with active ingredients like glyphosate and triclopyr are most Effective and can be applied to bark, foliage or stems cut (see Control Options).