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Tree-of-Heaven

Ailanthus altissima (P. Mill.) Swingle
Synonym(s): ailanthus, copal tree, and stinking sumac

Tree-of-Heaven Tree-of-Heaven
Chuck Bargeron, University of Georgia

 

Commodities Affected:
Forestry and Natural Areas

 

Threat:

Tree-of-Heaven is an extremely common tree in urban areas where it can cause damage to sewers and structures but poses a greater environmental threat because of its invasiveness in cultivated fields and natural habitats. A prolific seeder, Tree-of-Heaven grows vigorously, establishing dense stands that displace native plants. It produces chemicals that kill or prevent other plants from growing in its vicinity.

 

Distribution:

In 100 Years of Change in the Distribution of Common Indiana Weeds by William and Edith Overlease (2002) reported that Tree-of-Heaven was recorded in the following Indiana counties in 1899 (Coulter’s Catalogue of Indiana Plants): Fayette, Jefferson, Marion, Monroe, and Vigo. Coulter noted that Tree-of-Heaven “escaped from cultivation very largely in some of the southern counties.  I have seen whole hillsides completely covered with this species.” In 1940 (Deam’s Flora) noted that “it could be found in waste places, in cities and towns, in a few places in woodland in southern Indiana, and along the wooded bluffs of the Ohio River, especially in Jefferson County.”  Deam recorded Tree-of-Heaven in Decatur, Harrison, Jefferson, Lawrence, Marion, Monroe, Montgomery, Newton, Perry, Putnam, St. Joseph, Switzerland, and Wells.   In 2002, Overlease recorded that Tree-of-Heaven was found in all 92 counties in Indiana.