tree of heaven

Ailanthus altissima

Image of tree of heaven leaflets.
Photo credit: University of Wisconsin Herbarium


Ailanthus altissima, commonly known as the Tree of Heaven or Paradise Tree, is a deciduous tree belonging to the family Simaroubaceae. It is native to China and was introduced to other parts of the world due to its ornamental qualities and its ability to adapt to various environmental conditions.

Morphology: Ailanthus altissima is a medium to large-sized tree that can reach heights of 15 to 25 meters (50 to 80 feet), although in certain conditions, it can grow even taller. It has a distinctive appearance with a straight trunk that can be up to one meter (3 feet) in diameter. The bark is light grayish-brown and becomes rough and fissured as the tree matures.

The leaves of Ailanthus altissima are pinnately compound, meaning they consist of multiple leaflets arranged on opposite sides of a central axis or rachis. Each leaf typically has 10 to 41 leaflets, which are lanceolate or ovate in shape with pointed tips. The leaflets are glossy, dark green in color, and have serrated margins. They emit a strong odor when crushed, often described as resembling peanut butter or burnt rubber.

During the summer, Ailanthus altissima produces clusters of small, yellowish-green flowers. The flowers are not particularly showy and have a somewhat unpleasant smell. They are arranged in panicles at the tips of branches.

Following pollination, the tree produces elongated, flattened, winged seeds known as samaras. These samaras are light green when young and turn brown as they mature. They are easily dispersed by the wind due to their winged structure.

Range: Ailanthus altissima is native to northern and central China. However, it has been introduced and naturalized in many other regions around the world. It is known to thrive in temperate and subtropical climates and can adapt to a wide range of soil types. In its introduced range, it is considered an invasive species in many areas, including parts of North America, Europe, and Australia. It tends to colonize disturbed habitats, such as roadsides, abandoned lots, and urban areas.

Overall, Ailanthus altissima is known for its fast growth rate, ability to tolerate poor soil conditions, and highly aggressive behavior, which is why it is listed as a Restricted Species on the Wisconsin DNR Invasive Species List (NR40). Tree of heaven is the preferred host for the spotted lantern fly, an invasive insect that was introduced to Pennsylvania and has been found as close as Chicago, Illinois.


tree of heaven

USDA Symbol: Common Name: Scientific Name:
AIAL tree of heaven Ailanthus altissima

ITIS TSN: 28827

Category: Dicot


Kingdom: Plantae


Super Division: Spermatophyta

Division: Magnoliophyta


Class: Magnoliopsida

SubClass: Rosidae

Order: Sapindales

Family: Simaroubaceae


Natural Community:

Curtis Community:

Coefficient of Conservation:

Duration: Growth Habit: Native Status:
Perennial Tree L48(I)HI(I)CAN(I)

Active Growth Period: Spring and Summer

After Harvest Regrowth Rate:

Bloat: None

Carbon to Nitrogen Ratio: Medium

Coppice Potential: Yes

Conspicuous Fall Color: No

Fire Resistant: No

Flower Color: Green

Conspicuous Flower: Yes

Foliage Color: Green

Foliage Light Porosity Summer: Moderate

Foliage Porosity Winter: Moderate

Foliage Texture: Coarse

Fruit/Seed Color: Yellow

Fruit/Seed Conspicuous: Yes

Growth Form: Single Stem

Growth Rate: Rapid

Height at Base Age (Max): 50

Height at Maturity: 55

Known Alelopath: Yes

Leaf Retention: No

Lifespan: Short

Low Growing Grass: No

Re-sproutability: Yes

Shape and Orientation: Rounded

Toxicity: Moderate

Height (min):

Height (max):

Root Type:

Leaf Type:

Leaf Arrangement:

Leaf Shape:

Leaf Margin:

Vein Pattern:

Bloom Period: Commercial Availability: Fruit/Seed Abundance:
Late Spring Routinely Available High
Fruit/Seed Period Begin: Fruit/Seed Period End: Fruit/Seed Persistence:
Summer Fall Yes
Propogated by Bare Root: Propogated by Bulbs: Propogated by Container:
Yes No Yes
Propogated by Corms: Propogated by Cuttings: Propogated by Seed:
No Yes Yes
Propogated by Sod: Propogated by Sprigs: Propogated by Tubers:
No No No
Seeds per Pound: Seed Spread Rate: Seedling Vigor:
14640 Rapid High
Small Grain: Vegetative Spread Rate: Propagation Treatment:
No Rapid
Days to Stratify: Direct Sowing Time:


  1. UW Extension videoAilanthus altissima
  2. Wisconsin DNR Invasive Species websiteAilanthus altissima

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