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Tree-of-heaven is a rapidly growing tree that can reach 80 feet in height and six feet in diameter. It has pinnately compound leaves that are one to four feet in length with 11-25 leaflets. It has smooth stems with pale gray bark, and twigs that are light chestnut-brown. In late spring, clusters of small, yellow-green flowers appear near the tips of branches. Seeds are produced on female trees in late summer to early fall in flat, twisted, papery structures called “samaras.”

Originally from China, the tree-of-heaven first was introduced to America in 1784 by a gardener in Philadelphia, PA. Today it is found in disturbed areas, fields and along roadsides, fencerows, woodland edges and forest openings.

Tree-of-heaven reproduces through seeds and sprouts. The samaras, containing as many as 325,000 seeds, occur in September and October and may stay on the tree through winter. Trees also sprout from root suckers and will re-sprout aggressively from cut stumps and root fragments. Once established, this tree can quickly take over a site, form an impenetrable thicket and release toxins into the soil that inhibit the establishment of other plant species.

Young seedlings can be pulled or dug up, as long as all root fragments are removed. Cutting larger trees can reduce seed-spread but will not kill the tree. Herbicides can be used in combination with mechanical control through several methods.
More Resources:

Element Stewardship Abstract
U.S. Forest Service
Plant Invaders of Mid-Atlantic Natural Areas


Non-Native Invasive Plants Field Guide
Plant Conservation Alliance
Southeast Exotic Pest Plant Manual


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