What is tree of heaven?
Ailanthus or tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima (Mill.) Swingle) is native in eastern China and North Vietnam, where it grows as a natural component of broadleaf forests. The species belongs to the family Simaroubaceae, which includes more than 170 species of pantropical distribution, and which has no genera native to Europe. Starting from the 18th century, Ailanthus was introduced and planted around the world. Because of its decorative leaves, fast growth, resistance to herbivores, and low environmental requirements it was used in horticulture, landscaping, habitat restoration, soil erosion control, and medicinal and chemical industry.
How to recognize Ailanthus?
Ailanthus is a slender tree, usually up to 10 meters high, but sometimes growing up to 30 m. The bark is smooth and grey, with pale stripes. Leaves are large, up to 1 meter long, composed of 5-52 pairs of leaflets.
Why is Ailanthus an issue?
Ailanthus is a fast-growing, ecologically dominant plant, a successful pioneer of open habitats, including natural habitats of high conservation value, where it is outcompeting native plants and changing the habitat structure. It has high reproduction and dispersal potential: a single mature female tree produces 325,000 winged seeds yearly, which are easily transported by wind and water to great distances.