Tree-of-heaven

Ailanthus altissima (Mill.) Swingle

Life cycle

Fast-growing, weedy tree.

Tree-of-Heaven tree
Tree-of-heaven weedy habit.

Leaves

Alternate, pinnately compound with 11 to 41 leaflets, approaching 36 inches long. Leaflets are spear-shaped, 2 to 6 inches long, dark green above and pale green below. Leaf margins are smooth except for one to a few coarse teeth near the base; each tooth has a large gland beneath. Damaged leaves emit an unpleasant odor.

Tree-of-Heaven glands Tree-of-Heaven leaf
Glands on underside of leaflet teeth (left). Tree-of-heaven leaf (right).

Stems

A small to medium-sized tree, reaching up to 80 feet in height, although 40 feet is more common. Twigs are stout, yellowish to reddish brown and either smooth or downy. Bark is thin, smooth and pale to dark gray. Damaged stems emit an unpleasant odor.

Tree-of-Heaven sapling
Tree-of-heaven sapling.

Flowers and fruit

Small, green to yellow flowers are produced in terminal clusters. Fruit are single-seeded, 1.5-inch-long, winged samaras found in crowded clusters.

Reproduction

Seeds and prolific vegetative sprouts.

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The MSU IPM Program maintains this site as an access point to pest management information at MSU. The IPM Program is administered within the Department of Entomology, fueled by research from the AgBioResearch, delivered to citizens through MSU Extension, and proud to be a part of Project GREEEN.