Invasive Species Council of British Columbia
Invasive Plant

Tree of heaven

Ailanthus altissima

About This Species

Tree of heaven (Ailanthus, Varnish tree) is a deciduous tree that became popular in BC with gardeners for its rapid growth and interesting foliage. It is native to China and Taiwan. It produces by seed and by division and can sprout nearly anywhere – it is tolerant to a wide range of environmental condition. It is described as foul-smelling and now considered a weedy, invasive species that crowds out other plants. 

How to Identify

Tree of heaven can reach between 20–30 m in height and 10–15 m in width at maturity. Bark is grey and lightly textured. 

Flowers are small and white. Fruit is a showy red samara (like a maple’s “helicopter” like winged seeds).  

Leaves grow to 50 cm and are divided into oval-shaped leaflets. In the fall, the foliage turns yellow. 

Credit: C Herms,

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Prevention is the best approach.



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A few non-invasive alternatives to plant instead of Tree of heaven include:


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