Tree from hell?

Well, that’s what I like to call them. But their common name is Tree of heaven, while your horticulturist or arborist may refer to their proper botanical name: Ailanthus altissima.

Why don’t I like this species? Because they are the quintessential weed tree. They produce seeds in large numbers that readily germinate. Those that survive and grow on are usually in undisturbed places, right along building foundations, path edges, fence lines, etc.


You blink once and the tender seedling has grown into a small plant. You turn your head away for too long, and the small plants explodes into a small tree. They do this so fast that people often give up removing them because they now seem to big to rip out.


And it’s not just the Tree of heaven. Other common weed tree species that exhibit this tendency are Mulberry trees, Elm trees, and some maples.

We had one massive Tree of heaven and a Mulberry tree at the northwest corner of our house with roots all the way into our basement. Both trees made me real nervous and I had them taken down.

All I had left now was one larger Tree of heaven in the southeast corner of our vacant lot that I wanted to see go too.

Please don’t conclude that I just don’t like trees. I do like them, but they need to be in the right place and a suitable species. Cathy and I were eager to have an apple tree in that back corner, so calling in the chain saw wasn’t a hard decision.

To make sure the Tree of heaven doesn’t grow back from the stump we spent a few extra dollars and had it ground out. I remember digging up stumps like this in the old days. But I have to admit, I like standing near the stump grinder and watching the wood chips fly much better!

Related posts:

About Marcus de la fleur

Marcus is a Registered Landscape Architect with a horticultural degree from the School of Horticulture at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and a Masters in Landscape Architecture from the University of Sheffield, UK. He developed a landscape based sustainable pilot project at 168 Elm Ave. in 2002, and has expanded his skill set to building science. Starting in 2009, Marcus applied the newly acquired expertise to the deep energy retrofit of his 100+ year old home in Chicago.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *