Weed Identification

Australia > > Tree-of-Heaven


Ailanthus altissima

Family: Simaroubaceae.

Form: Tree

Origin: Native to China.

Flowers/Seedhead: Flowers: In terminal clusters mostly 612 cm long; male and female flowers on separate plants (dioecious). Male flowers emit an offensive smell that attracts insects. Flowers summer.

Description: Deciduous, suckering shrub or large tree to 15 m high. Leaves alternate 2050 (rarely to 100) cm long, with base of leaf stalk swollen (see photo). Leaves usually consist of 921 ovate, strongly veined, mostly opposite leaflets, 413 cm long, and with the terminal leaflet often smaller. Seeds surrounded by a flattened wing (see photo), green at first but becoming reddish.

Distinguishing features: Distinguished by leaflet lobes with a conspicuous dark gland (see photo) that produces an unpleasant smell when crushed and clusters of winged fruits.

Dispersal: Spread by seed and suckers.

Top: Young tree showing leaves that
end in a single leaflet
Bottom: Gland on underside of leaf

Notes: Forms dense thickets sometimes many hectares in size. Known to be growing in Australia in mid 1800s. Was often cultivated, especially around rural buildings. Possibly toxic to stock. In China its wood is used for fuel, construction and furniture; its bark and leaves for medicine and its leaves for food for a moth which makes silk. Hardy plant, with a deep root system.


    Noxious Weeds of Australia. W. Parsons and E. Cuthbertson, 1992, pages 589591. Flora of NSW. G. Harden (ed), Vol. 2, 1991, page 276.

Large clump near Tamworth, NSW

Seed surrounded by a reddish wing

This weed has been included in the WEEDeck field guide as card T07

More information about WEEDeck is available from Sainty & Associates Pty. Ltd.


Australia > > Tree-of-Heaven


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