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Tree of heaven

By: Garden Gate staff
Crush the leaves of tree of heaven and you'll pick up a foul, skunky odor. The leaves are large, sometimes growing to 3 ft. long.

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Tree of heaven Ailanthus altissima

IDENTIFICATION — Crush the leaves of tree of heaven and you’ll pick up a foul, skunky odor. The leaves are large, sometimes growing to 3 ft. long. Each leaf is made up of many pointed leaflets. New leaves often have a red tint before changing to bright green. This pest quickly grows up to 75 ft. tall with a 3-ft.-diameter trunk. Wind-blown seeds sprout and grow anywhere. Short-lived, averaging only 25 to 30 years, the weak wood breaks easily in storms. And toxin in the bark and leaves can keep seeds of other plants from sprouting.

FAVORITE CONDITIONS — Tree of heaven grows in sun or part shade in any type of soil, including rubble piles or cracks in cement.

CONTROL —?When the plant is a seedling, pull or dig it out of the ground. If it’s too large for this, spray the plant with a nonselective herbicide, such as Roundup® Poison Ivy & Tough Brush Killer Plus in spring or late summer. Or cut down the tree and dribble or brush on a systemic stump killer around the edges where the sap is flowing. It’s absorbed into the wood and kills the roots. Be careful — it can kill any plant it gets on.

Published: June 15, 2010
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