Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Ailanthus altissima



Ailanthus altissima (tree-of-heaven)


  • Last modified
  • 06 November 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Ailanthus altissima
  • Preferred Common Name
  • tree-of-heaven
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • Prolific fruiting, ready germination, adaptability to infertile sites and rapid growth rate make A. altissima a noxious weed in many countries where it has been introduced (...

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TitleTree habit
Copyright©Li Jiyuan
Tree habit©Li Jiyuan
Ailanthus altissima: lower trunk and bark
CaptionAilanthus altissima: lower trunk and bark
Copyright©Li Jiyuan
Ailanthus altissima: lower trunk and bark
BarkAilanthus altissima: lower trunk and bark©Li Jiyuan
Ailanthus altissima: leaves and leaf glands
CaptionAilanthus altissima: leaves and leaf glands
Copyright©Li Jiyuan
Ailanthus altissima: leaves and leaf glands
LeavesAilanthus altissima: leaves and leaf glands©Li Jiyuan
Ailanthus altissima: leaves and leaf glands
CaptionAilanthus altissima: leaves and leaf glands
Copyright©Li Jiyuan
Ailanthus altissima: leaves and leaf glands
LeavesAilanthus altissima: leaves and leaf glands©Li Jiyuan
Ailanthus altissima: inflorescence, closed
CaptionAilanthus altissima: inflorescence, closed
Copyright©Li Jiyuan
Ailanthus altissima: inflorescence, closed
FlowersAilanthus altissima: inflorescence, closed©Li Jiyuan
Copyright©Li Jiyuan
Flowers©Li Jiyuan
Ailanthus altissima: immature fruits (samaras)
CaptionAilanthus altissima: immature fruits (samaras)
Copyright©Li Jiyuan
Ailanthus altissima: immature fruits (samaras)
FruitsAilanthus altissima: immature fruits (samaras)©Li Jiyuan


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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Ailanthus altissima (Mill.) Swingle

Preferred Common Name

  • tree-of-heaven

Other Scientific Names

  • Ailanthus cacodendron (Ehrh.) Schinz & Thell.
  • Ailanthus giraldii Dode
  • Ailanthus glandulosa Desf.
  • Ailanthus peregrina (Buc'hoz) F. A. Barkley
  • Ailanthus sutchuensis Dode
  • Ailanthus vilmoriniana Dode
  • Albonia peregrina Buc'hoz
  • Pongelion glandulosum (Desf.) Pierre
  • Rhus cacodendron Ehrh.
  • Toxicodendron altissimum Mill.

International Common Names

  • English: China sumac; copal tree; tree of heaven; varnish tree
  • Spanish: arbol del cielo; zumaque falso
  • French: ailante; ailante glanduleux; arbre des dieux; arbre du ciel; faux vernis du Japon
  • Chinese: bai chun; chou chun; chun shu

Local Common Names

  • Germany: Götterbaum
  • Italy: ailanto
  • South Africa: hemelboom
  • Sweden: gudatraed; himmelstraed

EPPO code

  • AILAL (Ailanthus altissima)
  • AILGI (Ailanthus giraldii)
  • AILVI (Ailanthus vilmoriniana)

Trade name

  • tree of heaven

Summary of Invasiveness

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Prolific fruiting, ready germination, adaptability to infertile sites and rapid growth rate make A. altissima a noxious weed in many countries where it has been introduced (Feret, 1985; Shah, 1997). In the USA, it is declared invasive in Hawaii (University of Hawaii Botany Department, 1998) and several southern states, and monitored in 13 other states (Miller et al., 2003). However, the Invaders Database System (Rice, 2002) reports that it is not noxious in the five northwest states and that it is not listed on the US federal noxious weed list. In Australia, A. altissima is listed as a noxious weed with levels of control varying among states (Anon., 1998). In Victoria, it is designated a regionally controlled weed under the Catchment and Land Protection Act 1994 (CaLP Act), a category W2/W3 weed under the Noxious Weeds Act 1993 (NWA) in New South Wales, in Western Australia it is prohibited until assessed, and it is a declared weed in other states and territories (Anon., 1998). In South Africa it is a category 3 weed according to the Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act 1983, so landowners are responsible for curtailing its spread and it is prohibited within the vicinity of watercourses.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Rutales
  •                         Family: Simaroubaceae
  •                             Genus: Ailanthus
  •                                 Species: Ailanthus altissima

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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The genus Ailanthus comprises about 10 species, naturally occurring in Asia and north Oceania. A. altissima was named in 1916 by Swingle. Three varieties, vars. altissima, tanakai and sutchuensis, are recognized (Chen, 1997); several other varieties have also been described.


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A. altissima has gracefully curving branches, usually only 6-10 m tall, but sometimes growing up to 30 m high. The bark is smooth with pale stripes. Leaves up to 90 cm long, pinnate compound, pubescent or nearly glabrous, the lower pinnae having a blunt tooth near the base together with a large gland, leaflets up to 25, ovate-acute, usually with 1-3 pairs of glandular teeth near the base, otherwise entire. Flowers are unisexual, small and yellow, in large panicles; male flowers having an unpleasant odour. The seeds are contained within one-celled, one-seeded, oblong, thin, spirally-twisted samaras, 3 x 0.8 cm and light reddish-brown. The seeds have no endosperm. There are about 7000 seeds per kg.

Plant Type

Top of page Broadleaved
Seed propagated
Vegetatively propagated


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A. altissima is native to northern and central China, ranging from Liaoning and Hebei in the north to Guangxi and Fujian in the south, and from Zhejiang and Shandong in the east to Gansu in the west (Li, 1963; Zheng, 1978; Liu, 1988).

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasivePlantedReferenceNotes


ChinaWidespreadNativeLiu, 1988; Li, 1963; Zheng, 1978; EPPO, 2014
-FujianPresentNativeLiu, 1988; Li, 1963; Zheng, 1978
-GuangdongPresentNative Natural
-GuangxiPresentNativeLiu, 1988; Li, 1963; Zheng, 1978
-HebeiPresentNative Natural
-ShandongPresentNativeLiu, 1988; Li, 1963; Zheng, 1978
-YunnanPresentNative Natural
-ZhejiangPresentNativeLiu, 1988; Li, 1963; Zheng, 1978
Georgia (Republic of)PresentEPPO, 2014
IndiaPresentIntroducedSingh et al., 1992; EPPO, 2014
-Himachal PradeshPresentIntroduced Natural Luna, 1996
-Jammu and KashmirPresentIntroduced Natural Luna, 1996
-KeralaPresentIntroduced Planted
IndonesiaPresentEPPO, 2014
IranPresentIntroduced Planted Luna, 1996; EPPO, 2014
IsraelWidespreadEPPO, 2014
JapanPresentIntroduced Invasive Natural Singh et al., 1992; EPPO, 2014
Korea, Republic ofPresentIntroduced Planted EPPO, 2014
MalaysiaPresentEPPO, 2014
PakistanPresentIntroduced Invasive Planted Hussain , 2002; EPPO, 2014
TurkeyPresentEPPO, 2014


AlgeriaPresentEPPO, 2014
South AfricaPresentIntroduced Invasive Henderson , 2001; EPPO, 2014

North America

CanadaRestricted distributionIntroduced Invasive Luken & Thieret, 1997; Weber , 2003; EPPO, 2014
-British ColumbiaPresentIntroducedLuken & Thieret, 1997; EPPO, 2014
-OntarioPresentIntroduced Invasive Luken & Thieret, 1997; EPPO, 2014
MexicoPresentIntroducedWeber , 2003; EPPO, 2014
USAWidespreadIntroduced1784 Invasive Holm and et al. , 1979; Feret, 1985; Shah, 1997; EPPO, 2014
-AlabamaPresentIntroduced Natural Luken & Thieret, 1997
-AlaskaPresentIntroduced Invasive Weber , 2003
-ArizonaPresentIntroduced Natural Luken & Thieret, 1997
-ArkansasPresentIntroduced Natural Luken & Thieret, 1997
-CaliforniaPresentIntroduced Natural Luken & Thieret, 1997
-ColoradoPresentIntroduced Natural Luken & Thieret, 1997
-ConnecticutPresentIntroduced Natural Luken & Thieret, 1997
-DelawarePresentIntroduced Natural Luken & Thieret, 1997
-FloridaPresentIntroducedLuken & Thieret, 1997; Feret, 1985; Shah, 1997
-GeorgiaPresentIntroduced Natural Luken & Thieret, 1997
-HawaiiPresentIntroduced Invasive University of Hawaii Botany Department, 1998
-IdahoPresentIntroduced Natural Luken & Thieret, 1997
-IllinoisPresentIntroduced Natural Luken & Thieret, 1997
-IndianaPresentIntroduced Natural Luken & Thieret, 1997
-IowaPresentIntroducedLuken & Thieret, 1997; Feret, 1985; Shah, 1997
-KansasPresentIntroducedLuken & Thieret, 1997; Feret, 1985; Shah, 1997
-KentuckyPresentIntroduced Invasive Luken & Thieret, 1997; SE-EPPC, 2002
-LouisianaPresentIntroduced Natural Luken & Thieret, 1997
-MainePresentIntroduced Natural Luken & Thieret, 1997
-MarylandPresentIntroduced Natural Luken & Thieret, 1997
-MassachusettsPresentIntroduced Invasive Feret, 1985; Shah, 1997; Westbrooks , 1998
-MichiganPresentIntroduced Natural Luken & Thieret, 1997
-MississippiPresentIntroduced Natural Luken & Thieret, 1997
-MissouriPresentIntroduced Natural Luken & Thieret, 1997
-NebraskaPresentIntroduced Natural Luken & Thieret, 1997
-NevadaPresentIntroduced Natural
-New JerseyPresentIntroduced Natural Luken & Thieret, 1997
-New MexicoPresentIntroduced Natural Luken & Thieret, 1997
-New YorkPresentIntroducedLuken & Thieret, 1997
-North CarolinaPresentIntroducedLuken & Thieret, 1997
-OhioPresentIntroduced Natural Luken & Thieret, 1997
-OklahomaPresentIntroduced Natural Luken & Thieret, 1997
-OregonPresentIntroduced Natural Rice 2002
-PennsylvaniaPresentIntroduced Natural Luken & Thieret, 1997
-Rhode IslandPresentIntroduced Natural Luken & Thieret, 1997
-South CarolinaPresentIntroduced Natural Luken & Thieret, 1997
-TennesseePresentIntroduced Invasive Luken & Thieret, 1997; SE-EPPC, 2002
-TexasPresentIntroduced Invasive Feret, 1985; Shah, 1997; Westbrooks , 1998
-UtahPresentIntroduced Natural
-VirginiaPresentIntroduced Invasive Anon, 2002; SE-EPPC, 2002
-WashingtonPresentIntroduced Natural Rice , 2002
-WisconsinPresentIntroduced Natural

South America

ArgentinaPresentIntroducedWeber , 2003; EPPO, 2014
ChilePresentIntroducedHolm and et al. , 1979; Weber , 2003; EPPO, 2014


AlbaniaPresentEPPO, 2014
AustriaPresentEPPO, 2014
BelgiumPresentEPPO, 2014
Czech RepublicWidespreadIntroduced Invasive DAISIE, 2014; EPPO, 2014
FrancePresentIntroduced1740s Invasive Kowarik, 1983; Lepart et al., 1991; Cronk and Fuller , 1995; EPPO, 2014
-CorsicaPresentIntroduced Invasive DAISIE, 2014; EPPO, 2014
GermanyPresentIntroduced Invasive DAISIE, 2014; EPPO, 2014
GreecePresentIntroduced Invasive Cronk and Fuller , 1995; EPPO, 2014
-CretePresentEPPO, 2014
HungaryPresentIntroduced Invasive Cronk and Fuller , 1995; EPPO, 2014
ItalyPresentIntroduced Invasive Badalamenti et al., 2012; EPPO, 2014
-SardiniaPresentIntroduced Invasive DAISIE, 2014; EPPO, 2014
MaltaPresentIntroduced Invasive DAISIE, 2014; EPPO, 2014
MoldovaPresentIntroduced Invasive DAISIE, 2014; EPPO, 2014
NetherlandsPresentEPPO, 2014
PortugalPresentIntroduced Invasive DAISIE, 2014; EPPO, 2014
-AzoresPresentIntroduced Invasive Weber , 2003; EPPO, 2014
RomaniaPresentIntroduced Invasive DAISIE, 2014; EPPO, 2014
SerbiaPresentEPPO, 2014
SloveniaPresentEPPO, 2014
SpainWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Sanz-Elorza et al., 2004; DAISIE, 2014; EPPO, 2014
-Balearic IslandsPresentIntroduced Invasive DAISIE, 2014; EPPO, 2014
SwitzerlandPresentEPPO, 2014
UKPresentIntroducedHu, 1979; Weber , 2003; EPPO, 2014
-England and WalesPresentIntroduced Invasive DAISIE, 2014; EPPO, 2014
UkrainePresentIntroduced Invasive DAISIE, 2014; EPPO, 2014


AustraliaPresentIntroduced Invasive Holm and et al. , 1979; Cronk and Fuller , 1995; EPPO, 2014
-New South WalesPresentIntroduced Invasive Natural Anon, 1998
-QueenslandPresentIntroduced Natural
-VictoriaPresentIntroduced Invasive Cronk and Fuller , 1995; Anon, 1998
-Western AustraliaPresentIntroduced Natural Anon, 1998
New ZealandPresentIntroducedWeber , 2003; EPPO, 2014

History of Introduction and Spread

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In Europe, A. altissima was introduced in the 1740s (Hu, 1979) and currently is widely established (Kowarik and Säumel, 2007; DAISIE, 2014).

A. altissima was introduced into the USA in 1784 and has become extensively naturalized in North America (Luken and Thieret, 1997), from Massachusetts to southern Ontario (Canada), Iowa and Kansas, and south to Texas and Florida, as well as from the southern Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Coast (Feret, 1985; Shah, 1997). It was reported to be already widespread and naturalized in Tennessee in the late 1800s (SE-EPPC, 2002) and in some parts of the USA it is so well established that it appears to be a part of the native flora (Schopmeyer, 1974).

A. altissima has been introduced from China and Japan to India, where it is cultivated in the plains and hills of the north (Singh et al., 1992). It grows abundantly along roadsides in Himachal Pradesh and is able to grow on barren and stony substrates. It is used for afforestation in Jammu and Kashmir and as an avenue tree elsewhere. In Iran, it is planted in green belts around cities in semi-arid areas (Luna, 1996).

A. altissima has become naturalized in many of the temperate regions it has been introduced to, including Australia, India, Japan, Malaysia and Indonesia.


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Introduced toIntroduced fromYearReasonIntroduced byEstablished in wild throughReferencesNotes
Natural reproductionContinuous restocking
Australia 1845 Yes No Parsons and Cuthbertson (2001)
Europe France 1750s Horticulture (pathway cause) Yes No Hu (1979); Kramer (1995)
France China 1740s Horticulture (pathway cause) Yes No Hu (1979)
North America Europe 1784 Horticulture (pathway cause) Yes No Shah (1997)
UK France 1751 Horticulture (pathway cause) Yes No Hu (1979); Kramer (1995)

Risk of Introduction

Top of page It is likely to be further internationally introduced intentionally, particularly for ornament, shelter and soil erosion control.


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A. altissima is native to subtropical/warm temperate climates but is able to invade climates ranging from cool temperate to tropical. In South Africa it invades forest margins, roadsides and riverbanks in cool, moist regions (Henderson, 2001). In Europe, A. altissima has colonized disturbed sites along roads and ditches, particularly in the Mediterranean region, where has successfully invaded several habitats including old fields, scrubland and pine, oak and riparian forests (Kowarik, 1983; Lepart et al., 1991; Kowarik and Säumel, 2007; Constán-Nava, 2012). It is the most widespread woody invasive species invading wooded areas in the USA, occurring wherever moisture allows (Luken and Thieret, 1997).

Habitat List

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Terrestrial – ManagedManaged forests, plantations and orchards Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Managed grasslands (grazing systems) Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Urban / peri-urban areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalNatural forests Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Natural grasslands Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Riverbanks Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)

Biology and Ecology

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On the basis of morphological, physiological and biochemical characters of young A. altissima seedlings from USA and mainland Chinese seed sources, Feret and Bryant (1974) concluded that significant alterations of genetic content have occurred since the introduction and naturalization of A. altissima in the USA 200 years ago. However, there was no evidence of inbreeding depression in the American seedlings and they appeared to be as genetically variable as the Chinese seedlings. Xiong et al. (1993) studied 49 provenances from 11 regions of the north Yangtze river valley, China, and found considerable variation in seed colour, size weight and thickness of samaras among provenances, and a weak correlation between seed weight and seedling growth and latitude. In clonal trials, Zhang et al. (1998) estimated that the broad sense heritability for height is 38%. There is greater potential to obtain higher genetic gain at the provenance level, but selection of families should not be wholly ignored (Li et al., 1988; Xiong et al., 1993; Zhang et al., 1998).

Physiology and Phenology

The tree bears unisexual flowers on different trees. Both male and female flowers appear during July to August. Flowering occurs during May to June and seeds ripen in large, crowned clusters in September to October of the same season, and are dispersed from October to the following spring. Early flowering of vegetatively propagated trees is not a rare phenomenon (Zheng, 1978; Chen, 1997). A. altissima has good drought resistance as it can reduce transpiration at the hottest point of the day, and a ring-porous wood structure which permits rapid transfer of water from the roots to the leaves, both of which have contributed to its success in mediterranean regions (Lepart et al., 1991).

Reproductive Biology

Flowers are unisexual, and a single tree can produce up to 1 million wind-dispersed seeds in a year (Weber, 2003).

Environmental Requirements

A. altissima is found in temperate to sub-tropical climates, but does not thrive in heavy monsoon rainfall areas as seedlings are killed off. Mean annual rainfall is generally in the range 400-1400 mm per annum, but it will also tolerate a 4-8 month dry season. In submontane zones, it is found in areas with an annual rainfall of 500-700 mm. In Central Europe, climate is the major factor affecting its distribution, whereas in mediterranean regions its distribution is affected more by site fertility than by climatic factors. Preferred mean annual temperature is 7-18°C, and it can also tolerate heavy frosts, and survive absolute minimum temperatures as low as -35°C. A. altissima is an interesting example of a species that has become invasive outside its natural climate zone, i.e. it is native to subtropical/warm temperate climates but is able to invade climates ranging from cool temperate to tropical (Cronk and Fuller, 1995; Kowarik and Säumel, 2007).

A. altissima grows best on loose and porous soils, but can grow on a variety of soils from sandy or clayey loams to calcareous dry and shallow soils (Kowarik and Säumel, 2007). It can even tolerate barren rocky hills, if the rainfall is >750 mm per annum (Zheng, 1978, 1988). A. altissima is found at a range of altitudes of 20-2400 m, and in the temperate zone of the Himalayas, it grows between 1500 to 1800 m above sea level (Kowarik and Säumel, 2007).


A. altissima occurs in associations ranging from coniferous Mediterranean to broadleaved submediterranean.


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B - Dry (arid and semi-arid) Tolerated < 860mm precipitation annually
BS - Steppe climate Tolerated > 430mm and < 860mm annual precipitation
BW - Desert climate Tolerated < 430mm annual precipitation
C - Temperate/Mesothermal climate Preferred Average temp. of coldest month > 0°C and < 18°C, mean warmest month > 10°C
Cf - Warm temperate climate, wet all year Preferred Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, wet all year
Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer Preferred Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers
Cw - Warm temperate climate with dry winter Preferred Warm temperate climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry winters)

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)
50 45 20 2400

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Absolute minimum temperature (ºC) -35
Mean annual temperature (ºC) 7 18
Mean maximum temperature of hottest month (ºC) 28 32
Mean minimum temperature of coldest month (ºC) -10 0


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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Dry season duration48number of consecutive months with <40 mm rainfall
Mean annual rainfall4001400mm; lower/upper limits

Rainfall Regime

Top of page Summer

Soil Tolerances

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Soil drainage

  • free
  • seasonally waterlogged

Soil reaction

  • acid
  • alkaline
  • neutral

Soil texture

  • light
  • medium

Special soil tolerances

  • infertile
  • saline
  • shallow

Notes on Natural Enemies

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Two important insect pests recorded for A. altissima are Eligma narcissus and Lycorma delicatula. E. narcissus is a serious defoliator of saplings. L. delicatula is a serious pest borer, which attacks stems and branches and makes the bark darker in colour and susceptible to dry rot. Coccygomimus disparis is a natural enemy of L. delicatula. Dong et al. (1993) studied the biocontrol of overwintering larvae of Eucryptorrhynchus chinensis using the entomophilic nematodes Steinernema sp., S. feltiae and S. glaseri. Seedlings mainly suffer from root rots (Rhizoctonia and Fusarium spp.), and are also susceptible to Verticillium wilt. A. altissima is resistant to root-knot nematodes (Meloidogyne spp.) and Anoplophora glabripennis (Zhang et al., 1992; Santamour and Riedel, 1993). 46 phytophagous arthropods, 16 fungi, and one potyvirus were reported attacking Ailanthus altissima in China, some apparently causing significant damage (Ding et al., 2006).

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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Seeds may be dispersed long distances from the parent plant by the wind, and also by water and road traffic as secondary dispersal mechanisms (Kota, 2005; Kowarik and Lippe, 2006, 2011; Kaproth and McGraw, 2008; Säumel and Kowarik, 2010). Intentional introduction has been the common means of long distance dispersal, introduced to North America, Europe and Australasia for timber, shade and urban amenity plantings. 

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
DisturbanceFrequent, both accidental and deliberate Yes Constán-Nava, 2012; Kowarik and Säumel, 2007
Escape from confinement or garden escapeFrequent, accidental Yes Constán-Nava, 2012; Kowarik and Säumel, 2007
HorticultureFrequent, deliberate Yes Yes Kowarik and Säumel, 2007; Ruiz et al., 1990
Medicinal useFrequent, deliberate Yes Feret, 1985
Ornamental purposesFrequent, deliberate Yes Yes Kowarik and Säumel, 2007

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Land vehiclesFrequent, seed Yes Yes Kowarik and Lippe, 2006; Kowarik and Lippe, 2011
Plants or parts of plantsFrequent, seed or clonal growth Yes Yes Kowarik and Säumel, 2007
WaterFrequent, seed Yes Yes Kowarik and Lippe, 2011
WindFrequent, seed Yes Yes Kowarik and Säumel, 2007

Plant Trade

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Plant parts liable to carry the pest in trade/transportPest stagesBorne internallyBorne externallyVisibility of pest or symptoms
Bark eggs Yes Pest or symptoms usually visible to the naked eye
Leaves fruiting bodies; hyphae; plasmodia; sclerotia; sporangia; spores Yes Yes Pest or symptoms usually visible to the naked eye
Roots larvae; adults; cysts; eggs; juveniles Yes Yes Pest or symptoms usually visible to the naked eye
Stems (above ground)/Shoots/Trunks/Branches fruiting bodies; hyphae; plasmodia; sclerotia; sporangia; spores Yes Yes Pest or symptoms usually visible to the naked eye

Wood Packaging

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Wood Packaging liable to carry the pest in trade/transportTimber typeUsed as packing
Processed or treated wood No

Impact Summary

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Animal/plant collections None
Animal/plant products None
Biodiversity (generally) Negative
Crop production None
Environment (generally) None
Fisheries / aquaculture None
Forestry production None
Human health None
Livestock production None
Native fauna None
Native flora Negative
Rare/protected species None
Tourism None
Trade/international relations None
Transport/travel None

Environmental Impact

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Impact on Biodiversity

In the USA, from Massachusetts to Texas, A. altissima forms dense thickets that displace native vegetation, and is especially invasive along stream banks in the west (Westbrooks, 1998). Young trees grow rapidly, out-competing many other plant species for light and space. Toxins produced in the bark and leaves accumulate in the soil and inhibit the growth of other plants (Anon., 2002). In riparian communities, lower plant species richness and phylodiversity were associated to the presence of A. altissima (Constán-Nava, 2012).

Threatened Species

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Threatened SpeciesConservation StatusWhere ThreatenedMechanismReferencesNotes
Trifolium stoloniferum (running buffalo clover)USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesUSACompetition - shadingUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2011

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Highly adaptable to different environments
  • Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
  • Highly mobile locally
  • Has high reproductive potential
Impact outcomes
  • Damaged ecosystem services
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
  • Negatively impacts agriculture
  • Negatively impacts human health
  • Negatively impacts animal health
  • Reduced native biodiversity
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Competition - shading
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
  • Difficult/costly to control


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A. altissima is mainly valued for shade, shelterbelt and erosion control, particularly in cities where soils are poor and the atmosphere is smoky. It has also been employed in land reclamation of landfill sites (Lee et al., 1997). The wood is light and soft with yellowish-white sapwood and yellowish-brown heartwood. It is easy to dry and process and the wood is somewhat decay-resistant. In India the wood is considered to be perishable and subject to staining. It is suitable for construction, packaging, furniture, paper pulp, fibre industry and for match wood. In India, it is considered to be a poor quality match wood. It is used for fuelwood and charcoal production in several countries. The leaves can be used as a fodder for silkworms. The roots can be used to treat epilepsy and asthma. Seeds are a source of a fatty oil and protein; the oil being bitter but can be used after refining (Zheng, 1978; IWS, 1982; Chen et al., 1992). The roots and leaves contain allelopathic and herbicidal compounds (Heisey, 1990, 1997; Lin et al., 1995).

Uses List

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Animal feed, fodder, forage

  • Fodder/animal feed
  • Invertebrate food for silkworms


  • Agroforestry
  • Erosion control or dune stabilization
  • Shade and shelter


  • Charcoal
  • Fuelwood


  • Ornamental


  • Dye/tanning
  • Essential oils
  • Fibre
  • Miscellaneous materials
  • Pesticide
  • Wood/timber

Medicinal, pharmaceutical

  • Source of medicine/pharmaceutical
  • Traditional/folklore

Wood Products

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  • Short-fibre pulp


  • Building poles
  • Roundwood structures

Sawn or hewn building timbers

  • Beams
  • Bridges
  • Engineering structures
  • Exterior fittings
  • Fences
  • Flooring
  • For heavy construction
  • For light construction
  • Gates


Prevention and Control

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Mechanical Control

A. altissima is very difficult to remove once a taproot has been established. The plant can persist after burning, cutting and herbicide treatment and it is recommended that seedlings are removed by hand as early as possible, removing the entire taproot. Cutting stumps stimulates resprouting instead of eliminating it (Burch and Zedaker, 2003, Kowarik and Säumel, 2007). Even double-cut stump per year does not reduce its resprouting ability at long term (Constán-Nava et al., 2010).

Chemical Control

Cut stump with chemical application treatment such as the gyphosate herbicide reduces significantly the presence of A. altissima (Burch and Zedaker, 2003; Meloche and Murphy, 2006; DiTomaso and Kyser, 2007; Constán-Nava et al., 2010; Bowker and Stringer, 2011). Also, stem-injection of herbicide kills A. altissima trees (Meloche and Murphy, 2006; Badalamenti et al., 2013). SE-EPPC (2002) described a foliar spray method using glyphosate or triclopyr for large thickets of seedlings if the risk to non-target species is minimal.

Biological Control

Luken and Thieret (1997) cited reports of preliminary investigations into natural enemies. To assess the biological control of A. altissima, Ding et al. (2006) selected two weevils (Eucryptorrhynchus brandti, E. chinensis), one heteropteran (Orthopagus lunulifer) and three fungal pathogens (Alternaria ailanthi, Aecidium ailanthi and a Coleosporium sp.) (see Notes on Natural Enemies). Lennox et al. (1999) found that commercial stump treatment based on the fungus Cylindrobasidium laeve (Pers.) Chamuris killed 80% of treated stumps in South Africa.


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29/04/14 Updated by:

Soraya Constán Nava, University of Alicante, Spain

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