How To Identify and Remove “Tree of Heaven” Ailanthus

Ailanthus is a persistent and aggressive weed that grows quickly, up to 8ft tall the first year alone. Commonly known as Chinese Sumac, or Tree-of-Heaven, this deciduous tree grows up to 60′ tall and 40′ wide with a gray tinted bark. This tree is highly adaptable and tolerant to pollution. The tree is commonly found in urban areas and has a limited ability to thrive in a shaded forest environment. The Tree of Heaven forms areas of dense thickets that affect native plant and tree species. Its roots, leaves, and bark release allelopathic chemicals which prevent other plants from growing.

The Tree of Heaven reproduces from both seed and root sprouts. Their highly viable seeds are distributed easily by the wind. The seedlings are smaller than root sprouts and have trifoliate leaves. Sprouts will have a cluster of leaves with a varying number of leaflets. Seedlings have thin, branching roots while sprouts are connected to a thick, durable root. Sprouts can appear up to 50 ft away from the nearest Ailanthus. In New Jersey, seeds are dispersed October through early April, while about half disperse October-November.


How To Identify a “Tree of Heaven” Ailanthus Tree

A mature Tree of Heaven has a rough and fissured bark. The leaves are long with a central stem and leaflets on either side. The leaves are so large, they can be mistaken for several leaves, though it’s actually one large leaf with up 40 smooth-edged leaflets. The flowers of the male Tree of Heaven product a terrible odor.




Removing Tree of Heaven

To remove a fully-grown Tree of Heaven, the tree must be cut down as close to the ground as possible. Once cut down, a systemic herbicide, such as glyphosate, is applied. The herbicide needs to be done quickly after cutting the tree, otherwise the herbicide may not be effective. For several months after removal, any new sprouts, suckers, and seedlings must be removed, and the same systemic herbicide treatment applied.

At Reliable Tree Service, we have identified and removed this invasive species for hundreds of homeowners throughout Hudson and Bergen counties. We encourage you to give us a call if Tree of Heaven is spreading on your property. We can evaluate exactly what it will take to ensure complete removal of Tree of Heaven and provide an accurate estimate for removal.