The leaves turn only slightly yellow in fall before dropping but the 1.5-inch-long, yellow to red/brown, winged fruits which follow the blossoms will persist on the tree in dense clusters throughout the fall and into the winter months and are quite attractive but sprout easily and are messy.
Pronunciation: ay-LANTH-us al-TISS-sim-muh
Common name(s): Ailanthus, Tree-of-Heaven, Chinese sumac, stinking shumac
USDA hardiness zones: 5 through 8a
Origin: non-native from Asia.
Uses: reclamation plant
Availability: Grown in small quantities by small nurseries.
Flower: Flower color is green and the flowering characteristics are showy and spring flowering.
Bark: The bark almost looks like the skin of a melon called a cantaloupe.
What the Experts Say!:
"The tree that grows in Brooklyn could be none other than this species. Tough, persistent, and durable to a fault,it has few redeeming landscape features."
Edward Sibley Barnard, Author, "New York City Trees":
"Biologists trying to keep the ailanthus from overwhelming native trees in urban parks and preserves have had only limited success. Despite their efforts, the ailanthus is here to stay."
"A Tree Grows in Brooklyn":
Little did she know that this plant is actually capable of widespread destruction of urban property in the form of damaged building foundations and sidewalks. That is literally the reverse of the metaphor expressed in the book.
It now has wide distribution in the United States, occurring in forty-two states, from Maine to Florida and west to California. It grows stout and tall to about 100 feet with a "fern-like" compound leaf that may be 2 to 4 feet long.
Tree-of-Heaven can't handle deep shade and is most commonly found along fence rows, roadsides, and waste areas. It can grow in nearly any environment that is relatively sunny. It can pose a serious threat to natural areas recently opened to sunlight. It has been found growing up to two air miles from the nearest seed source.