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© M. Halford
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Invaded site

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Ailanthus altissima

Identity

Common name: Tree of heaven
Synonyms: Ailanthus cacodendron, Ailanthus giraldii, Ailanthus glandulosa, Ailanthus peregrine, Ailanthus procera , Ailanthus rhodoptera, Ailanthus sutchuenensis, Pongelion cacodendron, Rhus cacodendron, Toxicodendron altissimum
Origin: Asia
Plant type: Tree
Life cycle: Perennial
Code of conduct: Annex I (consensus list)
Invasive status (ISEIA protocol): Black list
Main ornemental function: Ornamental tree

Description

Ailanthus is a small to medium-sized tree, up to 25 m tall. Large, compound leaves, composed of 11-25 leaflets slightly toothed. The fruit consists of 3 samaras (winged fruits). All parts of the tree, especially the flowers, produce a strong odour.

Spread

The tree of heaven reproduces both sexually (by seeds) and asexually (resprouting and root-suckering). One individual can produce up to 325 000 seeds per year. Wind, water and animals (birds) can disperse seeds, sometimes over long distances. Persistent seed bank (seeds are viable more than 5 years in the soil). Muliplication by root-suckers is very efficient. The growing rate is very high (up to 4 m per year). Mature at 3 to 5 years old.

Habitat

Pioneer species tolerant to dry conditions. Ailanthus grows in chalk grassland, rock outcrops and deciduous forests, but also in waste lands or along roadways, railways. Resistant to disturbed or stressed habitats. Highly tolerant of poor air quality and poor soils, the tree is sensitive to ozone.

Impact

Species classified A2 in Belgium. Because of its high dispersal capacities, Ailanthus altissima is a very aggressive invader. It can outcompete many native species for sunlight and space. It also produces toxins (allelopathic substances) which accumulate in the soil and inhibit the growth of other plants. The root system can damage pavements, walls,.. The plant can colonise high conservation value habitat like chalk grasslands and other xeric habitats (habitats on dry soils) characterized by rare and protected species. Included in the black list of several European countries like France, Switzerland, Germany, A. altissima is considered as one of the 100 most invasive plants in Europe. The species is not widespread in Belgium, but invaded sites have been observed in chalk grasslands. For more information, click here

Recommendation

Do not plant, do not buy this species.

Possible native alternative

Main ornemental function

Ornamental tree

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