Common Name: Tree of Heaven 
Scientific Name: Ailanthus altissima (Mill.) Swingle 
Synonyms: Chinese sumac, stinking sumac, stink tree, tree-of-heaven

Legal Status: Prohibited - Eradicate. All above and below ground parts of the plant must be destroyed. Additionally, no transportation, propagation, or sale of this plant is allowed. Failure to comply may result in an enforcement action by the county or local municipality. Minnesota Noxious Weed Law.

Lifecycle: Perennial
Related Species: No related species in North America.
Habitat: Prefers full sun and dry soil. It will readily colonize disturbed urban and rural areas. Tolerant of soils with high levels of pollution.
Impacts: Agricultural impact is being the primary host for spotted lanternfly, an invasive sap sucking insect causing problems in the eastern United States. Environmental impacts include the ability to release allelopathic chemicals helping it outcompete and displace native species.
Native range: China, Taiwan, and Vietnam.
Means of Spread: Tree of heaven is a prolific seed producer and a single female tree may produce up to 325,000 seeds per year. It also spreads aggressively through vegetative means, in response to above-ground cutting or root breaking. Root fragments found in infested soil may start new populations if brought to a new area.


Tree of heaven was brought to the U.S. in the late 1700s as an ornamental shade tree. Today this tree is found in most of the continental U.S. and Hawaii.



  • Mechanical: Pulling or digging up roots
  • Chemical: foliar, cut stump, hack and squirt, basal bark herbicide treatment

Images and their description

Image preview Characteristics described

Fruit are flat, twisted, winged fruits called samaras that hang in long clusters. Each samara contains one seed.


Seedlings start displaying pinnately compound leaves early in their development.


Flowers are small, yellowish-green, and arranged in large, showy clusters at the end of the leaves.


Leaves are large (1- 4 feet long), alternate, and compound with 11- 41 smaller leaflets.


Individual leaflets are 3-5 inches long, with smooth margins and two lobes at the base. A gland is visible on the underside of each lobe.


Leaves attach to the stem with a crescent shaped node. Stems are brittle and can be easily snapped even when actively growing.


Parent plants send up suckering roots up to 90ft away.


Bark on mature trees is textured and grey.


Suckering roots will grow through structures including foundations and pavement.