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Tree of Heaven, also known as Ailanthus altissima in the scientific world, is an extremely hardy tree from Asia, and the tree mentioned in the book A Tree grows in Brookland It is charactarized by its large clumps of compound leaves and huge orangeish flowers at the end of its stems. In China, it forms large, majestic forests. Outside its natural habitat, it is far from heavenly, and is becoming a serious weed in many areas, such as California, where it was brought in by Asian immigrants in the 18th century. It invades riparian areas and crowds out most other plants. It does this by reproducing aggresively by means of suckers; one of these trees may create a thicket of hundreds of saplings in a few years. I don't recommend planting this tree unless you are in East Asia; if you do plant it outside its native range, your neighbors will curse you when their lawns and gardens are filled with many suckering shoots of this plant.

While working at Guilford Courthouse National Military Park as a member of the Youth Conservation Corps I was taught how to recognize Tree of heaven and spent a few days Seeking and Destroying.

Tree of heaven indeed does have compound leaves. One identifying charactaristic of these leaves is a small lobe on one edge of the leaf, near the base. These are called "nodes".

The other major identifier of tree of heaven is the smell. When cut, the tree gives of a truly sickening stench. I have heard it described as similar to the smell of burning peanuts, but I have never experienced that particular scent, so I can't confirm it. You can remove some leaves of a suspect tree and sniff the broken ends to test the smell. If they assault your nose with their offensive odor, its time to stump and spray.

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