Tree of Heaven, Ailanthus altissima

For the following reasons:
- we have a LOT of it
- it stinks...I mean STINKS as in smells awful
- there are tiny saplings sprouting all over our yard---in the gutters......in between the boards of the deck...this thing grows anywhere and everywhere
- it's invasive and chokes out the good, native, trees
- we're both wildly allergic to the pollen

We have decided to take out the trees whenever possible, in order to replace them with native species. Not sure what we'll replace them with, but it'll take a while to take them all down. S. started a few weeks ago.

Here are some close-ups. It's easy to recognize, once you know what to look for.

The bark is very smooth, and grey.

The leaves contain multiple leaflets:

Stems between the leaflets appear rather red.

Here's one of the trees we took down.
No joke, there were no leaves at all on this 2 days later thanks to the voracious deer population.

Descriptions cited in the photos are from the VT Forestry I.D. website.


    On August 25, 2009 at 6:44 PM Anonymous said...

    I've never heard of this tree, thanks for the pics and the mini-botany lesson. Really, maybe I'm a bit of a nerd, but I do love this kind of stuff. How many do you have, and what kind of native species do you want to plant?


    Heavens--we must have hundreds of them in various sizes...

    I would like to replace them with something that plays a similar role natively--fast growing (doesn't need much light--remember these are in the woods)....so perhaps understory trees... I was thinking Redbuds and Dogwoods, but haven't actually had the time to look into a suitable replacement. I may consult the cooperative extension...they could help :-)


    We fight this tree too. It grows in alleyways in Chicago and the seedlings sprout up everywhere! When we took a friend from the city to our farm in Wisc last summer he remarked on the number of tree of heaven that are in the country - we said, oh those are black walnut trees. They do look slightly similar!

    I too, hate this tree. It stinks!!!


    Hi Angie: They do look a bit like Walnuts-- and for quite a while that's what we thought they were. Fortunately a knowledgeable neighbor set us straight. Of course, once you know what you're looking for, the straight-up-and-skinny-trunk growth habits and smooth pale gray bark become pretty easy to recognize.

    We do have a few walnut trees, though!

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