Ailanthus altissima


Origin Of Species
Physical Description
Tree-of-heaven is a relatively small deciduous tree that has been known to reach a maximum height around eighty feet and a diameter of six feet.  Its leaves are pinnately compound and can be up to three feet long.  The pale gray trunk and light brown twigs are characterized by extremely weak wood.  In the spring, it produces small clusters of fragrant yellowish flowers near the ends of the upper branches.  Wing-like seed structures are produced that mature around September and October.
Habitat And Distribution
Tree-of-heaven is characteristically found near disturbed sites such as along roadsides, near vacant lots, highway medians, fence rows, in urban areas, and in some agricultural fields and open woodlands.  It is located in nearly all states within the continental United States except those in the central north.
Location On Campus
Tree-of-heaven is abundant along River Road near the University Forest Apartments, and at various scattered locations along non-lake edges of Westhampton Woods and the former Gambles Mill Road (between Westham Creek and the Country Club of Virginia).
Negative Impacts
Tree-of-heaven grows rapidly and produces seeds and root sprouts in copious amounts.  The winged nature of the seeds effectively permits colonization of adjacent areas.  Tree-of-heave successfully out-competes native vegetation for sunlight and space, and can quickly generate a large, dense thicket.  Toxins in the bark and leaves may accumulate in the soil, inhibiting growth of native plants.  Root systems may damage the foundations of other plants.  Tree-of-heaven can tolerate poor soils, allowing it to quickly colonize disturbed areas and low maintenance landscapes.  Its inherent resilience allows it to grow back very quickly after being damaged.  The tree can flourish in unfavorable conditions and requires very little care.
VDCR Invasiveness Ranking
Highly Invasive Species

Additional Images: Tree   Seedling   Young tree

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