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Have you seen tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima)?
Hawaii Early Detection Network Priority Pest for the island of Hawaii


Ailanthus altissima fruit
Flat, twisted, winged fruits/seeds occur on female plants in terminal clusters. Look for the distinctive toothed gland on the bottom margin of each leaflet.
Inset image: © Copyright Steve Baskauf
Ailanthus altissima
Mature trees have smooth gray bark (left); young stems are light brown with heart-shaped leaf scars (right)
Image (right): Jan Samanek, State Phytosanitary Administration, Bugwood.org
Ailanthus altissima flower
One study reports that an individual tree can produce as many as 325,000 seeds per year.

Identification: Tree of heaven, aka stinking sumac or Chinese sumac, is a fast growing decidious tree (80 ft. +) with smooth, pale gray bark, and twigs that are a chestnut brown with prominent heart shaped leaf scars. It has large imparipinnate compound leaves that are 1-4 feet long, alternately arranged along the stem, and composed of 10-41 leaflets. Each leaf has a smoth edge (no serration) and a distinctive toothed gland found at the base. Male and female plants produce different flower types, which are small and pale yellow to greenish and grow in terminal clusters. Female trees produce flat, twisted, tan to reddish winged fruits the shape of an airplane propeller in the late summer and early fall which may remain on the tree for a long period of time. All parts of this plant have a strong offensive smell.
Impacts: Tree of heaven is very fast growing and will outcompete other plants and becomes a pest in agricultural, urban, and forested areas. The tree and bark of this plant produces allelopathic (poisonous) compounds which prevent the growth of other plants and results in solid stands of only this one tree. Tree of heaven's extensive root system can cause damage to structures.
Dispersal Mechanism: This tree can grow from both root and stump sprouting and via seeds, which are produced copiously on female trees. Root sprouts will grow 10-13 ft and seedlings have been observed to grow 3-6.5 ft over the first several years of growth. Clonal reproduction via root and stump sprouting ensures that the plant can live for very long periods of time- the first tree introduced to North America in 1784 still exists today.
Origin, Distribution, and Habitat: Tree of heaven has been introduced throughout the world from China where it is a valued medicinal and horticultural plant. It thrives in disturbed areas and in shade conditions. It is considered a pest plant where it has been introduced throughout North America and Europe.

More information about this pest external link


Last Updated: Monday January 30 2012. If you have any questions about the Hawaii Early Detection Network contact reportapest-maui@lists.hawaii.edu.
Funding and support for this project was made possible by the Hawai'i Invasive Species Council, the USDA Forest Service State and Private Forestry assistance, and University of Hawai'i-Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit.