BugwoodWiki Article

Ailanthus altissima (P. Mill.) Swingle


Ailanthus altissima is a rapidly growing, typically small tree up to 80 ft. (24.4 m) in height and 6 ft. (1.8 m) in diameter. It has large leaf scars on the twigs.
Foliage is one of the best identifying characteristics for this species. The leaves are pinnately compound and 1-4 ft. (0.3-1.2 m) in length with 10-41 leaflets. Ailanthus altissima resembles native sumac and hickory species, but it is easily distinguished by the glandular, notched base on each leaflet.
Species is dioecious and flowering occurs in early summer when large clusters of yellow flowers develop above the foliage.
Fruit produced on female plants are tan to reddish, single winged and can be wind or water-dispersed.
Ecological Threat
Ailanthus altissima forms dense, clonal thickets which displace native species and can rapidly invade fields, meadows, and harvested forests. This invasive tree species is extremely tolerant of poor soil conditions and can even grow in cement cracks. Ailanthus altissima is not shade tolerant, but easily invades disturbed forests or forest edges causing habitat damage. Introduced as an ornamental, it was widely planted in cities because of its ability to grow in poor conditions. Management and control efforts for this species continue across the United States at great economic cost.


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EDDMapS Distribution - This map is incomplete and is based only on current site and county level reports made by experts, herbaria, and literature. For more information, visit www.eddmaps.org

EDDMapS Distribution

State Invasive List - This map identifies those states that list this species on their invasive species list. For more information, visit Invasive.org

State Invasives List

Invasive Listing Sources

Taxonomic Rank

Kingdom: Plantae
Phylum: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Subclass: Rosidae
Order: Sapindales
Family: Simaroubaceae
Genus: Ailanthus

Other System Links

Plants: AIAL
Bayer: AILAL
GRIN: 2072
ITIS: 28827
NPDN Host: 35533

Synonyms and Other Names

Other Common Names:
tree of heaven, ailanthus, copal tree, stinking shumac, varnish tree, Chinese sumac, paradise-tree

Related Scientific Names:

Ailanthus glandulosa (P. Mill.) Swingle(Synonym)


Category: Hardwood Trees