Scientific Name: Ailanthus altissima

Common Name: tree-of-heaven

Other Common Names: ailanthus

Synonyms: Ailanthus glandulosa

Habit: Seeds germinate and dormant branches produce foliage in spring. Plants grow vigorously during summer and produce flowers in late summer to early fall before going dormant for winter.

Leaves: Individual leaves are arranged alternately along the stem and consist of 15-27 individual leaflets per leaf. Leaflets are lanceolate in shape with entire margins except for 1-5 teeth near the base of each leaflet. The foliage emits a distinctive, often considered unpleasant, odor. Leaves typically lack hairs.

Identifying Characteristics: Weedy, colonizing trees with alternate and compound leaves and foliage that emits an unpleasant odor.

Flower Seed Head: Produced in large terminal panicles. Individual flowers are relatively inconspicuous and consist of 5 green petals that are approximately 1.5 to 2.5 mm long.

Seed Fruit: Woody, light brown to tan in color, and stout. A winged samara that is approximately 1.5 inches long and contains only one seed. Clusters of about 2 to 5 samaras occur at a time.

Where Found: This tree has developed into a problem along roadsides, in rights-of-way, in urban areas, and even in certain agricultural fields. Found throughout the United States. This invasive species has infested much of Virginia's roadsides crowding out native tree species.

  • Life cycle: perennial

  • Milky sap: Not Present

  • Plant type: Tree

  • Thorns: Not Present

  • Plant family: Simaroubaceae

  • Leaf arrangement: alternate

  • Leaf shape: lance

  • Ochrea: Not Present

  • Leaf margin: serrated

  • Stem hairs: no hairs

  • Flower color: white; yellow; green

  • Growth habit: woody bush or tree

  • Stem: round or oval

  • Leaf structure: pinnate

  • Leaf hairs: no hairs

  • Flower symmetry: radial symmetery

  • Flower diameter: pencil

  • Root structure: taproot

  • Leaf stalk: shorter than leaf