Tree of heaven. Photo Credit: Richard Gardner, Bugwood.org
Tree of heaven flowers. Photo Credit: Jan Samanek, Phytosanitary Administration, Bugwood.org
Tree of heaven leaves and seeds. Photo Credit: Chuck Bargeron, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org
Tree of heaven seeds. Photo Credit: Annemarie Smith, ODNR Division of Forestry, Bugwood.org
Tree of heaven seeds. Photo Credit: Chuck Bargeron, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org
Also known as: Tree-of-heaven, stinking sumac, varnish tree, stink tree
Tree of heaven is not very heavenly, especially in urban landscapes. Its root system can push up pavement and sidewalks in its unquenched search for resources. It’s leaves also produces a foul odor, reminiscent of rancid peanut butter.
Worse yet, tree of heaven is the preferred host tree of the spotted lanternfly, an invasive insect that damages agriculture crops.
|Life Cycle:||Perennial (life cycle lasts more than one year)|
|Early Detection and Rapid Response species:||No|
|Height:||Can grow up to 50 feet (15 meters) tall|
|Leaf Description:||The leaves are compoundA leaf consisting of several distinct leaflets joined to a single stem. and grow alternately along the stem. Each leaf is made up of lance-shaped leaflets that grow opposite one another. Sometimes a leaf can have up to 40 leaflets. |
Its leaves produce a foul odor, reminiscent of rancid peanut butter.
|Fruit & Flower Description:||Male and female flowers bloom on separate trees. Each flower is small, light green to yellow and grow in clusters at the end of branches. |
Seeds are wrapped in a slightly twisted paper wing, called a samara, that allow it to be blown away from the tree. Samaras range in color from yellow-greed to red-brown.
|Bloom Time:||May to June|
- Tree of heaven grows in many habitat types including forest edges, riparian areasAreas that are directly adjacent to flowing streams, creeks, or rivers., yards, urban parks, and roadsides.
- It is a hardy species that prefers sunny conditions and can grow in areas with poor soils.
- Tree of heaven is fast-growing and forms large thickets that can result in a monocultureGrowing a single crop or plant..
- It sprouts root suckers that can push up pavement and sidewalks, creating problems for homeowners and urban infastructure.
- It produces toxins that inhibit neighboring plants from growing.
- Tree of heaven is the preferred host for the spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula), an invasive insect that damages agriculture crops such as grapes, apples, and pears if it were to establish in Oregon.
What you can do about it:
- Although tree of heaven is widespread in Washington County, we are tracking it in case of spotted lanternfly introduction. If you think you’ve found tree of heaven, please report it to the Oregon Invasive Species Hotline.
- It is very difficult to treat large trees of heaven, it’s best to consult a weed treatment professional when trying to treat this species.
- Weed wrenches can assist with removing smaller trees of heaven. If you are in Washington County, we lend these tools for free from our tool library.
- Make sure to wear gloves when removing it, as it’s leaves can leave your hands smelling bad even after a few washes.
Young tree of heaven is often confused with the native red elderberry (Sambucus racemosa). Both species have similarly shaped leaflets, but red elderberry produces small clusters of bright red berries and only grows up to 12 feet (4 meters) tall.
Noxious Weed Listing:
Download the Tree of Heaven Best Management Practices Factsheet
- University of California, Weed Research and Information Center: Tree of Heaven