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Tree of Heaven

The invasive species, Tree of Heaven, Ailanthus altissima, is native to South China and Australia. It is a rapidly growing deciduous tree that can be found nearly everywhere in North America where it is prolific, Luke Chute Conservation Area is no exception. First introduced in Philadelphia in 1784, it was frequently used as an urban tree in Washington DC and Baltimore and it has since spread (2018, Jackson)

  1. Size: max 80-100 feet
  2. Bark: The bark of tree-of-heaven is smooth and green when young, eventually turning light brown to gray, resembling the skin of a cantaloupe.
  3. Leaves: Pinnately compound, leaves come from a central stem with lance shaped leaflets on either side.
  4. Twigs: Alternate
  5. Seeds: Found on female trees only. Samara or wings 1-4 inches long.


  • Tree of Heaven can be male or female. One female tree can seed up to 300,000 clones.
  • It produces allelopathic chemicals to prevent other plants from growing near it.
  • Tree of Heaven will grow anywhere that isn’t shaded. Not typically found where canopy is dense.
  • Can look like: Walnut, Sumac, or Hickory (2018, Jackson)

Invasive plants easily grow in our native environment because our environment lacks the predators and pests that control the invasive plant in its natural environment; thereby, causing major disruption in our native ecosystem. Native plants lose ever diminishing real estate leading to a lack of biodiversity and habitat degradation. Invasive species also threaten endangered species. Around 42% of current endangered species are endangered due to invasive species (2016, Wisconsin DNR).

Biodiversity is the variety of life on earth. A healthy biodiversity provides several natural services for everyone:

  • Ecosystem services, such as
    • Protection of water resources
    • Soils formation and protection
    • Nutrient storage and recycling
    • Pollution breakdown and absorption
    • Contribution to climate stability
    • Maintenance of ecosystems
    • Recovery from unpredictable events
  • Biological resources, such as
    • Food
    • Medicinal resources and pharmaceutical drugs
    • Wood products
    • Ornamental plants
    • Breeding stocks, population reservoirs
    • Future resources
    • Diversity in genes, species and ecosystems
  • Social benefits, such as
    • Research, education and monitoring
    • Recreation and tourism
    • Cultural values (1998, Shah)

This Fall FLMR will be hosting Pollinator Habitat Workdays at the Luke Chute Conservation Area located 5 miles from the SR 266 and Route 60 junction. Five miles before Stockport, OH. We will be removing Tree of Heaven from 9AM-12PM on Sept. 22, Sept. 27, and Oct. 27th.

“We will mostly be dealing with small saplings in sandy soil, so we will mainly be pulling or digging them out. On larger trees we cut them down and paint the stump with an herbicide. We prefer not using herbicides, but tree of heaven will often send up multiple roots sprouts for years if you don’t kill the root system.  It’s possible to eventually kill the root system by continually cutting the root sprouts until you exhaust the reserves in the roots, but this isn’t always practical as it takes much more work and won’t be successful unless you are diligent”, Katy Lustofin, FLMR President and Professor of Biology at Marietta College.


Jackson, D. R. (2018). Tree of Heaven. https://extension.psu.edu/tree-of-heaven

Wisconsin DNR (2016). Why we should Care. https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/invasives/care.html

Shah, Anup (1998). Why is Biodiversity Important? Who Cares? http://www.globalissues.org/article/170/why-is-biodiversity-important-who-cares