invasive tree of heaven foliage

Tree-of-heaven (Ailanthus altissima). Photo: Richard Gardner,

Updated: February 22, 2023

About tree-of-heaven (Ailanthus altissima)

Life cycle and background

Invasive deciduous tree. The preferred host plant of invasive spotted lanternfly.

Growth habit

Fast growing and invasive; leaf large, 1 to 4 ft. long, compound with 11 - 25 leaflets; leaflets have a smooth margin and 1-2 teeth near the base with a pair of small glandular structures; entire plant has an unpleasant odor but particularly the leaves if they are crushed. Tree of Heaven looks similar to native sumac and black walnut.

Tree of heaven
Photo: Annemarie Smith,


Seeds; male and female flowers on separate plants, followed by papery samaras; large leaf scars and smooth bark; resprouts from roots if cut

seeds of Tree of Heaven
Photo: Chuck Bargeron, University of Georgia,

Conditions that favor growth

Escaped cultivation and can be found in any location, even under harsh conditions

Controlling tree-of-heaven

Additional resources

Maryland Biodiversity Project | More ID photos of tree of heaven

(PDF) The Mistaken Identity: Invasive Plants and their Native Look-Alikes 

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