Tree-of-Heaven,  Ailanthus altissima
Simaroubaceae or Quassia Family

New leaves

Small to large tree with very large, one to 2-foot leaves not opposite each other on the branches.  Leaves compound, made up of about a dozen long, narrow, pointed leaflets opposite each other on the leafstalk. Leaflets untoothed, except for a single pair of teeth at the base.  Young leaves in spring tinged red.  Flowers small, greenish-yellow, in clusters in mid-June.  Fruits are samaras, flat, dry wings encasing a seed (maple "helicopters" are paired samaras).  Tree-of-heaven samaras are reddish, in clusters, not pairs, and the seed is in the center.

A noxious, invasive alien species that is increasingly invading the woodlands of the eastern United States.  We are trying to reduce or eliminate this undesired species, but it is still far too common in the Park's woodlands, particularly along the edges.

The flowers and fruits are good identifiers.  In leaf it is easily identified as it has the largest compound leaves, with the most leaflets, of any tree in the Park.  Small specimens can easily be confused with staghorn sumac, but that species has leaves that are toothed along their entire edge, hairy twigs, and very different flowers and fruits.

More Information 


Leaf Teeth

Fruits (samaras)

Closeup of fruits

Flora & Fauna Home

Wildwood Home