Ailanthus altissima (Mill.) Swingle

Tree of Heaven

Family: Simaroubaceae
5º 55.823W

The tree tag number relates to the black tree-maintenance tags, usually fixed on the trunk, 2 to 3m above ground level.

Attractive tree with cream flowers in August and later pinkish fruit. The young specimen near the bandstand in Belfast Botanic Gardens was planted in the 1970s and now flowers prolifically. Attractive when young, this is not a tree for a small garden as it can reach 28m height. It can spread from suckers which may extend up to 30m from the parent tree. In the UK it does not set viable seed (yet!), but in warmer climates it can become an invasive problem by seeding. It has compound leaves (cf. walnut and ash), with each leaflet having usually a single, or up to 6, basal teeth. The teeth have a gland that oozes an unpleasant-smelling nectar. This is observed to attract ants which then control leaf-eating insects.

Photos taken in Belfast Botanic Gardens in 2009 and 2010. Copyright: Friends of Belfast Botanic Gardens.