Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima)

300x225Also known as shumac or Chinese sumac, the tree of heaven is native to China and Taiwan and was introduced to America by a Pennsylvania gardener in 1748. It was being sold commercially in this country about a century later. This highly adaptable deciduous tree can now be found in 30 states and can grow in a wide variety of soil types, preferring areas fully exposed to the sun. Tree of heaven grows rapidly and produces huge amounts of seeds. Another trait that makes it a threat to natives is that it contains chemicals that serve as a natural herbicide towards other plants.

300x225 2Trees can reach 70 feet in height with soft, coarse-grained wood. Shumac produces large leaves that have many leaflets with several small teeth. Large clusters of yellowish-green flowers in June yield prolific single-seeded winged fruits on female trees. Control of this species requires persistence, but targeting large female trees is a good way to prevent further spread of seeds. A removal of all trees should be a long term goal, and this can be done effectively with the application of systemic herbicides on bark, leaves, or stems. Staghorn sumac, ash, and walnut are a few native alternatives to this invasive tree