Tree of Heaven Ailanthus altissima
The Tree of Heaven, native to northern and central China, was introduced to Britain in 1751. It was planted extensively in London Squares and elsewhere in parks, streets and gardens. It is now very common in urban areas and has spread naturally in the warmer parts of the USA by colonising waste ground. It is considered an invasive species in many countries and very difficult to eradicate because of its ability to re-sprout vigorously when cut. The leaves have a characteristic bad odour when crushed. At first sight the tree looks like an Ash but closer examination of the leaves shows the difference. Click on any photo to enlarge it.
Each leaf has 11 to 25 leaflets. It is a pinnate leaf. At first sight the leaf looks like that of the Common Ash.
The male flowers come out in July. They emit a strong unpleasant odour to attract pollinators such as flies. The trees are dioecious with male and female flowers on different trees.
The fruit of female trees hangs, in the form of ‘keys’, like this in October. They look like Common Ash keys except for their colour. Most trees in urban areas are female.