Tree of Heaven Ailanthus altissima


The tree of heaven is native to the southern half of China, and in 1751 was introduced into Europe, where it is now grown in the cities and parks in the western, central and southern areas. Thriving best in a mild climate, it grows well in warm lowland areas, particularly in cities, where it has great powers of natural regeneration on dumps and demolished sites. It is a fast-growing tree that requires abundant light but it is tolerant of a wide range of soil types and stands up well to dry weather and air pollution. It flourishes in light soil and its wide-spreading root system serves to bind sandy soil. It is marked by a vigorous production of stump and root suckers. It is easily damaged by severe cold, and is not suitable for planting in locations with frosty winters.

The tree of heaven reaches a height of 20 to 25 metres, and develops a stout trunk with smooth dark grey bark. The shoots are thick, and have large leaf scars below the buds. The odd-pinnate leaves are very ornamental, and the inconspicuous yellow-green flowers, arranged in panicles, are usually borne dioeciously. The winged fruit is capable of travelling great distances. The tree of heaven is an important ornamental for city parks and avenues.

Leaves: Odd-pinnate,

30—60 cm long, consisting of 7—22 pairs of ovate, pointed leaflets that have 2—4 glandular teeth at the base. Fruit: Propeller-shaped samara, about 3—4 cm long, with a central rounded seed.