A deciduous tree with compound leaves, the tree-of-heaven (Ailanthus altissima) was brought from central China as an ornamental plant for landscaping. Mature trees typically reach 30 to 50 feet, but can grow up to 80 feet.
Its wind- and water-borne seeds allow it to invade disturbed areas, where it forms dense thickets that prevent the establishment of native species.
Seedlings and small saplings can be cut or hand pulled. Girdling (removing tissue in a ring around the tree) or cutting larger trees without herbicide treatment isn’t recommended, because it vigorously sprouts from stumps and roots.
To avoid the need for cutting, try a basal bark treatment in late winter or early spring. Always read and follow the directions on the label when using herbicide.