Characteristics of Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima) in the Wild

Ailanthus altissima
Tree of Heaven or Varnish Tree (Ailanthus altissima) is a species of deciduous tree native to northeast and central China and Taiwan. Unlike other members of the genus Ailanthus, this tree is found more often in temperate regions than in tropical areas.

It is named “Tree of Heaven” because it can grow anywhere, even in arid places and poor soil.

The Tree of Heaven has been introduced in many regions around the world and is now found on every continent except Antarctica. This tree is found in various climatic conditions, even in America, you can find this tree anywhere.

In China, the heavenly tree has a long history. It is mentioned in the oldest surviving Chinese dictionary and is listed in many Chinese medical texts for its ability to cure diseases. The roots, leaves, and bark are used in traditional Chinese medicine, especially as an astringent.

 

Characteristics of Leaf

Ailanthus altissima Leaf
Source: flickr.com/photopoésie

The heavenly tree has large leaves (30-90 cm) in length and contains 10-41 leaflets arranged in pairs. When the foliage appears in spring, they will be bronze and then quickly turn to medium green then dark green. Each leaflet is 5-18 cm long, 2.5-5 cm wide, and a tapered tip.

 

Characteristics of Flower

Ailanthus altissima Flower
Source: flickr.com/Kim Ewart

The flowers are small and appear in large numbers. Individual flowers are yellowish-green to reddish-green, each with five petals and sepals.

The flowers appear from mid-April in the south of their range to July in the north. Dioecious paradise tree, with male and female flowers on different trees.

 

Characteristics of Fruit

Ailanthus altissima Fruit
Source: flickr.com/Jesús Cabrera

The fruit is in groups, one bunch can contain hundreds of fruits. The seeds on the female trees are about 5 mm in size and each is packed in a size of 1 inch (2.5 cm).

 

Characteristics of Tree of Heaven

Ailanthus altissima Tree
Source: flickr.com/Cheryl Moorehead

The paradise tree can grow as a medium-sized tree reaching a height of 15-25 meters with a diameter of about 1 meter. The bark is smooth and light gray, slightly rough with fine cracks in an old tree. The branches are sturdy, smooth, and reddish.

The branches are light to dark gray, smooth, shiny, and contain protruding lenticels that become cracks with age. All parts of the heavenly tree have a pungent odor that is often likened to peanuts or cashews.

The Paradise tree prefers moist clay soil but can adapt to a wide variety of soil types and pH values. It is also drought-tolerant, but not tolerant of flooding in too shady places.

 

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