Have you seen tree of heaven plants in your neighborhood? This fast-growing invasive tree is easy to identify and found all over NY, particularly in urban areas. Tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima) is the preferred host plant of the spotted lanternfly, an invasive insect being found in more and more parts of NY that could have severe impacts on our state’s agriculture and forests. Finding and reporting tree of heaven to NY iMapInvasives can help supplement state efforts to prevent negative impacts from these two species.
Use these tips to help you identify tree of heaven (TOH):
- Plant and leaflets resemble sumac. TOH leaflets are smooth around the edges with a small notch at the base (see top photo), whereas sumac leaflets have jagged edges.
- When touched or broken, TOH has a unique scent similar to burnt peanut butter.
- You can find more information, including photos to help with identification, on the Penn State Extension website.
If you find TOH on your own property, you may be interested in removing it. If the plant is small, you can simply pull it out by hand or dig it up. Large plants require herbicide treatment. Read more about tree of heaven, including details on different management techniques, starting on page 23 of the Invasive Species Best Management Practices booklet (PDF) from the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program.
Photos of TOH by Chris Evans, University of Illinois, Bugwood.org (top) and Paul Wray, Iowa State University, Bugwood.org (bottom)