A tree or shrub of a genus (Ailanthus) of the quassia family, having pointed leaflets, fine-grained wood, and clusters of small, greenish flowers with an unpleasant odor.

Ailanthus, as Inyo writes, is a tree that was introduced to North America from Asia and is sometimes considered to be a pest.

The Ailanthus is most notable for its long (over 1 foot) leaves, which are pinnately compound, and have between 12 and 18 leaflets. When it is young (and it usually is), it has a smooth, almost green bark. When it gets older, its bark looks more like a normal tree, although it still seems strangely flexible.

Ailanthus can also be told by two others characteristics: when it blooms, it stinks; and it can grow almost anywhere. I have seen Ailanthus grow up to four feet tall in two inche cracks in pavement within a year.

As Inyo noted, it can be a very invasive plant, although to be fair, it usually grows in areas that have already been disturbed, such as near rail road tracks, abandoned lots, and also riparian areas. But since the Ailanthus has only been in America for a 100 years, we do not yet know whether it permanently colonizes these areas, or whether it will follow a normal route of succession.

The name of the plant derives from the Indonesian name, I believe, modified with anthus, the Greek for "flower".

Ailanthus (Tree-Of-Heaven), like Tamarisk, has a nasty reputation in the Western United States for getting everywhere it doesn't belong. In the foothills and valleys of California, it has invaded many riparian areas, and crowded out just about everything else. Although one tall ailanthus may be pretty in a landscape, this tree will inadvertently send up hundreds of suckers from its roots, resulting in a thick jungle-like mass of vegetation. I personally find these thick areas to be creepy and weird, at least in California. I'm sure in its native China its competitors and predators prevent it from becoming a monoculture. Although this tree can be a total pain in the ass, you gotta give it credit for being able to survive just about anywhere and being almost impossible to .kill

Ai*lan"thus (#), n.

Same as Ailantus.


© Webster 1913.

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