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Tree of Heaven or False Varnish of Japan, Ailanthus altissima

tree of the family Simaroubaceae.

Etymology: "Ailanthus" derives from a Malaysian expression, significant "tree which goes up to the sky" or "Tree of Heaven". It is really a very big tree, what means its name " altissima ".
Origin: Oriental Asia. A young plant of Tree of Heaven was sent from Beijing to France, by the Father Jesuit Pierre d' Incarville, by 1750.
Quick growth.The wood becomes brittle as it matures.
Habitat: Tree of Heaven is tree undemanding. Its seeds dispersed by the wind take roots as a bad grass and colonize the urban waste lands and the platforms of expressways. It suckers easily (too much), unaware of ways and of the dividing walls.
Lifespan: 120 years.
Height: 30 m tall.
Shape: ball crown.
Right trunk.

Bark slightly cracked, of grey colour (click on "bark").

Deciduous foliage. Very big leaves (30-90 cm), imparipinnate (13 - 25 leaflets). Leaflets are petiolate. They are oblong and lanceolate, and have a smooth margin. One recognise them thanks to the flat base ending by two small tips carrying glands melliferous. The upper face is dark green, the lower face is clearer, pubescent and glandular. The crushed leaves give off a stench.
Flowers in June. Male and female make separate trees (species dioecious). Badly odorous, the male flowers, in big panicles misty, attract insects (entomophilous) nevertheless. Flowers are small, of a greenish yellow; they have 5 sepals and 5 petals. In city, ones plants species with few male flowers, because they smell bad.
Fruits in clusters of samaras (4 cm) resemble pink clusters of flowers, in September.

Use: a butterfly, the Bombyx was introduced for the bristle of the cocoon (which feeds on the leaf of Tree of Heaven), but it was a failure. The tree of heaven has had for a long time favours of the town planners as tree of parks and of avenues.
Know that Tree of Heaven is a species invasive, which spreads by suckering or by dispersion of seeds. It is disadvised now to plant it. Indeed, the intrusive species lead to important disturbances on biotopes.
Besides, the male feet spread in June / July a bad smell.
Its white-yellow wood is rarely used. It is a bad firewood.


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