Tree of Heaven

Tree of heaven. Photo by Chuck Bargeron, University of Geogia,

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Common Name: Tree of heaven
Scientific Name: Ailanthus altissima
Origin: China


Tree of Heaven is a rapidly growing deciduous tree, capable of reaching 80 feet in height. Leaves are alternate and compound, with 10-41 leaflets that have smooth edges. Flowers are small, yellow-green and appear in clusters in late spring or early summer. Flowers mature to large clusters of winged samaras in late summer. When crushed, the leaves and other plant parts produce a rancid odor.

Tree of heaven closely resembles native sumac species (Rhus typhina & Rhus glabra).


Tree of heaven prefers open, disturbed sites. It can be found growing along riparian corridors, forests edges & openings, fields, roadsides, and waste places.


Trees produce large quantities of seeds and exude chemicals from their roots that suppress the growth of surrounding plants. Tree of heaven’s incredibly rapid growth rate allows it to outcompete native species for space and resources.

NYS Threat Ranking Assessment Score = Very High, 84.44


Small seedlings can be removed by hand pulling or digging. Larger plants and infestations can be treated with triclopyr or glyphosate based herbicide. Foliar spray, cut stump, basal bark, and hack & squirt are all effective.

Distribution: View Map