General: The common name, Tree of Heaven, refers to its towering height, which can be over 20m tall. Tree of Heaven is the preferred host of the invasive insect, Spotted Lanternfly, which has been spreading across North America, severely damaging vineyards & orchards.
Height: Up to 24m tall
Flowers: Flowers are small & white, in loose cone-shaped clusters. Fruits are a showy red samara (winged seeds like a helicopter).
Leaves/Stems: Leaves distinctive, large, pinnately divided (1 – 4 feet in length), each with 10 – 25 leaflets. Leaflets are smooth & oval. When crushed, leaves smell like burnt rubber. Bark is smooth, grey, textured with prominent lenticels.
Roots: Taproot system. Shallow & widespread.
Japanese Walnut (Juglans ailanthifolia) – To distinguish, note that Tree of Heaven has 1 – 3 coarse teeth at the base of each leaflet & a noticeable gland on the underside of each tooth
Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina) – Staghorn Sumac leaves are odourless / Tree of Heaven leaves produce an unpleasant odour when crushed
Smooth Sumac (Rhus glabra) – Smooth Sumac leaves do not have an unpleasant odour & are serrated/toothed, while Tree of Heaven leaflets are smooth.
Where did it come from? China. Introduced as a garden ornamental.
Where does it grow here? Plants grow under a variety of conditions & are tolerant of nutrient-poor soils like clay. Plants can sprout out of sidewalks or streets. Also grows along roadsides, lakeshore, gardens, empty fields, & forest edges.
Reproduction: By seeds, roots, & suckers. A single plant can produce 325,000 seeds per year. Will sprout from cut stumps & root fragments. Seeds remain viable in the soil for over 1 or 2 years.
When does it grow, flower & seed? Blooms in late Spring, creating small, cone-shaped clusters of flowers that turn into red seeds which are flat, papery, & twisted.
Spreads By: Wind dispersal of seeds & also by water, birds, & farm equipment. Also spreads asexually by suckers. It sprouts readily from cut stumps and root fragments.
Plant Type: Tree