Ailanthus altissima, Tree of Heaven

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14 years 2 weeks ago - 14 years 2 weeks ago #130639 by moss
Ailanthus altissima also known as Tree of Heaven or just sumac

This is a tree found in disturbed landscape, often in urban areas. In the most tree unfriendly urban locations it may be the only species able to survive. Ailanthus is regarded as an invasive species in North America and is widely disliked, but it is remarkable in its ability to absorb and resist the effects of pollutants. In the city it is here to stay and once in awhile a good climber can be found. Its wood is fairly light and soft, similar to some poplar species in density if not lighter. Before climbing a vigilant inspection is required, the tree is not forgiving. If there is a hollow or co-dominant or otherwise compromised aspect of the tree structure it must be identified: branch or trunk failure is a real possibility. I tie into heavier than usual branches to be on the safe side but have found that if the trunk, limb or joint is healthy, the wood is quite strong even to narrow diameters. Even so it is best to locate a top to bottom healthy specimen and tie-in where the branch joins the trunk or create a false crotch on a spar. The bark is smooth and friendly and doesn't grab your throwbag. It's relatively easy to advance your rope in its simple branch structure. The ailanthus is monoecious meaning one house for each gender: there are male and female trees. The male tree in flower smells like an alley full of tomcats but otherwise the tree is inoffensive. I like the ailanthus for its exotic and primitive quality, the pinnate leaf structure reminds me of the paintings of Henri Rousseau, once you get over the tree's bad reputation it can start to grow on you.
-moss
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Last edit: 14 years 2 weeks ago by moss.

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14 years 2 weeks ago - 14 years 2 weeks ago #130640 by moss
Replied by moss on topic Re:Ailanthus altissima
Climber in ailanthus

Last edit: 14 years 2 weeks ago by moss.

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14 years 2 weeks ago - 14 years 2 weeks ago #130643 by nickfromwi
Replied by nickfromwi on topic Re:Ailanthus altissima
Moss, you are nuts!!! :woohoo: Those trees just plain stink. The first one I ever climbed was in NJ. I climbed up, tied in, then was about to descend and my coworker said from an adjacent tree, \"what are you doing?\" He then looked at my TIP, then pointed to a limb on his tree, confirmed with me that I thought my TIP and his branch were the same size, then he snapped the branch in his hand.

That was a quick lesson for me!

I despise this species of tree for a couple reasons. 1- the smell. I get nauseas from the smell of the leaves or the stench that wafts from a broken twig. 2- weak branches 3-you put it in a nice manner, focusing on the strength of the tree, but where it grows...it GROWS. If there's one, look around. You'll surely find babies growing in multitude nearby.

At least, that is how things are here in los angeles. I see them growing by the hundreds along the freeways, between buildings that are too close for the tree to grow, in the cracks of the sidewalks, in window sills...

THERE'S ONE NOW!!!!

:S

love
nick

Would you like a lanyard spliced up, or anything else for that matter??? Give me a call- 323-384-7770 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Last edit: 14 years 2 weeks ago by nickfromwi.

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14 years 2 weeks ago - 14 years 2 weeks ago #130645 by moss
Replied by moss on topic Re:Ailanthus altissima
I was waiting for a strong response :-) I don't find that they smell much unless the male is in flower or you start busting out branches. The smell reminds me of some of the eucalyptus species. The tree in the photo above is on an island off the coast of Rhode Island. Ailanthus has naturalized there and is actually quite nice looking in the setting and the trees are very healthy. It doesn't seem to propagate in the expected invasive manner, the ocean weather and native shrubs and trees keep it in its place. In the city the health and structure is usually pretty bad from growing up in alleyways and between sidewalk cracks etc.

Here's my hulking neighborhood ailanthus (on the left) which throws down a big branch once in awhile, this one during high winds:

-moss
Last edit: 14 years 2 weeks ago by moss.

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11 years 3 months ago #134641 by 2chops
Replied by 2chops on topic Re:Ailanthus altissima, Tree of Heaven
This tree is junk! In my opinion they're not good for anything except making oxygen. If you want to get rid of it you can't just cut it down and stump treat it like you could an oak or maple. If you do you'll kill that stump but you'll still get sucker growth off of the roots. The way to get rid of it is to hit the leaves with a foliar spray and let it work in for at least 10 days. Then you can cut it down.
I know this is a tree friendly site, and as an ISA Certified Arborist I do what I can for good tree maintenance but....everyone has their pet peeve. And this one is it.
DEATH TO THE "GHETTO PALM"! :woohoo:

Ron.

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11 years 3 months ago #134645 by moss
Replied by moss on topic Re:Ailanthus altissima, Tree of Heaven
I know I know but.... I found a old ailanthus growing in a patch of urban woods with mature white and red oaks, it's an undeniably fine tree, has old-growth qualities. Every species has to be considered in its context, this particular ailanthus has earned its keep and is a beautiful tree. Ailanthus is here to stay, it will be a losing battle to try and get rid of it.
-moss

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11 years 3 months ago - 11 years 3 months ago #134687 by greenluck
Replied by greenluck on topic Re:Ailanthus altissima, Tree of Heaven
Considered a invasive species here in Ohio. We often see large groves of them where open fields are returning to woods.

They seem to have a short life span. Is this true?

I have more of these trees on my property than I can count, but none are a climbable size.

I have only seen 2-3 of these trees that would be large enough to show old growth qualities like Moss described.

Very smelly if you cut one down (Maybe that's why there is so many, nobody want to mess with them)Not the best tree for firewood.......

To be honest, probably not my favorite tree......But it is still better than no trees at all.
Last edit: 11 years 3 months ago by greenluck.

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11 years 3 months ago #134688 by 2chops
Replied by 2chops on topic Re:Ailanthus altissima, Tree of Heaven
I've never heard of any references as to how old these things get to be. Just that they grow fast and everywhere. We have several in my area that are 20" dbh and then some. I had one in the back yard of the place I was renting that was 30". And the lot behind this one has one this size also. The biggest issue with this beast is that the root system sends out polific regrowth when cut down. Tenacious buggar, eh, what.

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11 years 3 months ago #134689 by 2chops
Replied by 2chops on topic Re:Ailanthus altissima, Tree of Heaven
I've never heard of any references as to how old these things get to be. Just that they grow fast and everywhere. We have several in my area that are 20" dbh and then some. I had one in the back yard of the place I was renting that was 30". And the lot behind this one has one this size also. The biggest issue with this beast is that the root system sends out polific regrowth when cut down. Tenacious buggar, eh, what.

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11 years 3 months ago #134690 by 2chops
Replied by 2chops on topic Re:Ailanthus altissima, Tree of Heaven
I've never heard of any references as to how old these things get to be. Just that they grow fast and everywhere. We have several in my area that are 20" dbh and then some. I had one in the back yard of the place I was renting that was 30". And the lot behind this one has one this size also. The biggest issue with this beast is that the root system sends out polific regrowth when cut down. Tenacious buggar, eh, what.

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