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Invasive Species: Tree of Heaven

Tree of Heaven

Also Chinese sumac or stinking sumac
 (Ailanthus altissima)
*Detected in Michigan*

Report this species:

Use the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network (MISIN) online reporting tool

- Or - download the MISIN smartphone app and report from your phone


Tree of heaven branches with reddish-yellow early seed pods.

Photo courtesy of Chuck Bargeron, University of Georgia,

Yellowish-green tree of heaven flowers extend in upright clusters from branches.

Photo courtesy of Jan Samanek, State Phytosanitary Administration,

Four tree of heaven seed pods, each with a seed in the center of a leaf-like pod.

Photo courtesy of Steve Hurst, USDA NRCS Plants Database,


  • Fast growing deciduous tree reaches up to 70 feet.
  • Bark is smooth, spotted and pale gray to brown.
  • Leaves are 1-3 feet long, comprised of 11-25 long, narrow leaflets resembling native sumac.
  • Leaflets have one or more rounded teeth near the base.
  • Small, yellowish-green flowers form large, upright clusters in June.
  • Fruits are flat, twisted, winged seeds.
  • Flowers and leaves have an unpleasant, rotten peanut butter odor.

Habitat: Tolerant of poor soils and drought but requiring some sun, tree of heaven can be found in old fields, forest edges and openings, and in urban environments where it was used in landscaping.

Native Range: Northeastern and Central China and Taiwan.

U.S. Distribution:  Widespread throughout most of the U.S.

Local Concern: Root shoots can develop into dense thickets. Roots can damage sewers and structures. Roots also produce chemicals that inhibit the growth of other plants.

Look-Alikes:  compound-leaved shrubs and trees like staghorn sumac, ash, black walnut and hickory. Sumac has fuzzy, reddish-brown stems and leaves; ash species have opposite leaves; ash, black walnut, hickory and sumac leaf margins are completely to mostly toothed.


Tree of Heaven Invasive Species Alert - Printable PDF