Ailanthus altissima (Mill.) Swingle - Tree of Heaven

Ailanthus altissimus plant

Family - Simaroubaceae

Stems - No info. yet.

Leaves - No info. yet.

Inflorescence - No info. yet.

Ailanthus altissimus inflorescenceStaminate inflorescence.

Flowers - Staminate flowers - Fetid. Pedicels to 6mm long, sparse pubescent. Calyx tube 1mm long, 2mm broad, 5-lobed. Lobes acute, .8mm long. Petals 5, cupped, greenish-white, 3.5mm long, alternating with the calyx lobes, 3.5mm long, 1.2mm broad, densely pubescent near the base abaxially, also pubescent on the margins and some adaxially. Stamens 10, erect to spreading. Filaments densely pubescent (at least in the basal 1/2), white, 2.5mm long. Anthers yellow, 1.2mm long.

Ailanthus altissimus flowers

Ailanthus altissimus calyxCalyx.

Flowering - May - June.

Habitat - Waste ground, along streams, base of bluffs, thickets, roadsides, railroads, commonly cultivated.

Origin - Native to Asia.

Other info. - This common tree can be found scattered throughout Missouri in the wild and is widely cultivated. The plant grows fast and is quite a noxious weed. It also grows well from seed. It should not be willingly spread in the wild. Trees can be staminate, pistillate, or perfect. Only the staminate plants have a bad odor when flowering.
A. altissima has been used medicinally in the past. A tea made from the bark is used to treat diarrhea, dysentery, and tapeworms. Large doses of the tea, however, may be toxic. The tree has also been shown to have antimalarial properties. In China, some cases of hay fever have been attributed to the plant.
The wood of this species can be mixed with other hardwoods for pulp in the paper-making process. Sap from the wood has been known to give cause rashes in some people.

Photographs taken at the Kansas City Zoo, 5-18-00.


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