Tree of Heaven


This tree found in our backyards is not worth saving. It is often called the weed tree and the following information gives more details.


DESCRIPTION
Tree-of-heaven, also known as ailanthus, Chinese sumac, and stinking shumac, is a rapidly growing, deciduous tree in the mostly tropical quassia family (Simaroubaceae). Mature trees can reach 80 feet or more in height. Ailanthus has smooth stems with pale gray bark, and twigs which are light chestnut brown, especially in the dormant season. Its large compound leaves, 1-4 feet in length, are composed of 11-25 smaller leaflets and alternate along the stems. Each leaflet has one to several glandular teeth near the base. In late spring, clusters of small, yellow-green flowers appear near the tips of branches. Seeds are produced on female trees in late summer to early fall, in flat, twisted, papery structures called samaras, which may remain on the trees for long periods of time. The wood of ailanthus is soft, weak, coarse-grained, and creamy white to light brown in color. All parts of the tree, especially the flowers, have a strong, offensive odor, which some have likened to peanuts or cashews.

ECOLOGICAL THREAT
Tree-of-heaven is a prolific seed producer, grows rapidly, and can overrun native vegetation. Once established, it can quickly take over a site and form an impenetrable thicket. Ailanthus trees also produces toxins that prevent the establishment of other plant species. The root system is aggressive enough to cause damage to sewers and foundations.

BACKGROUND
Tree-of-heaven was first introduced to America by a gardener in Philadelphia, PA, in 1784, and by 1840 was commonly available from nurseries. The species was also brought into California mainly by the Chinese who came to California during the goldrush in the mid-1800s. Today it is frequently found in abandoned mining sites there. The history of ailanthus in China is as old as the written language of the country.

http://www.nps.gov/plants/alien/fact/aial1.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ailanthus_altissima

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3 Responses

  1. this is a nice summer article or even fall—please move the SALT article to priority reading

  2. Is this what they call the “cat pee tree”? Does it smell like a litterbox? I was checking out an open house on Langley and was sniffing around. The agent said the smell was from a tree in the backyard. Smelled like a litterbox to me.

  3. Yes that would be the tree. The smell is very pungent and does smell like cat litter for the period of time that it produces seed pods that litter your backyard.

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