Purdue University Logo

Tree of Heaven

A close image of a tree of heaven plant. It shows the leaves and seeds. The leaves are long, slim, and come to a point. The leaflets are attached opposite each other to the main stem. The seeds are also long and thing but are curled and twisted at the edges. They are pink and green.

Other names: Tree of heaven, Chinese sumac, varnish tree, Ailanthus altissima

Where did it come from?

Tree of heaven was introduced multiple times from China in the late 1800s. It was planted both as a strictly ornamental tree and for medical use.

Why is it invasive?

Tree of heaven has a strong unpleasant smell and its sap can cause heart issues in some people. When it escapes into uncultivated areas it can crowd out native trees. In addition, a new invasive species, spotted lanternfly, favor this tree and seem to be attracted to it.

How do you prevent its spread?

Carefully follow removal recommendations. This tree is hardy and difficult to remove if not done correctly. The sap and smell can also cause heart problems in some people. Be careful when removing this tree.


Species assessment

Tree of heaven species profile

Tree of Heaven ID and Management

Seen it? Report it! Through the app or online.

Image credit: Dietmut Teijgeman-Hansen