Tree of Heaven

Tree of Heaven

Ailanthus altissima, better known as ailanthus or tree of paradise, is a plant that is part of the Simaroubaceae family. It is a tree native to northwestern China and Taiwan, but then it was naturalized in Italy and is now found everywhere even here, as well as in the rest of Europe and the United States. Unlike other varieties of the genus Ailanthus, this one grows in temperate climates and not in tropical climates. It is a tree that grows very fast, it can reach up to 30 meters in 25 years, but it is not very long-lived. Its stem is erect and its foliage is thick and branched; the bark is light brown and gray on the branches; its wood is not very resistant; the leaves are stems formed by about twenty oval leaflets, of a bright green color. Each leaf can be up to 40-50 centimeters long. In spring the female specimens of this plant produce yellow-green flowers, while in late summer they produce paper samaras that adorn the tree for several months. It is not normally attacked by parasites or diseases.

tree of paradise ” width=”745″ height=”496″ longdesc=”/giardino/alberi-latifolie/albero-del-paradiso.asp”>The ailanthus or tree of paradise originates from China, where it is called chouchun; its history is ancient, just think that it is mentioned in the oldest Chinese dictionary. Its name also recurs frequently in Chinese medical texts because its roots, its leaves and its bark are still used today in traditional Chinese medicine to treat many diseases. In China this tree is also cultivated to breed a caterpillar of a moth which produces a type of silk. As they are the last to come out in spring, for the Chinese the birth of new leaves meant that winter was really over. The tree of paradise was imported to Europe and then to America in 1700: it was among the first trees to be exported from China, at a time when Chinese artifacts were in fashion. Initially it was used as an ornamental plant but then the growers realized that it grew quickly, adapted to any conditions and above all spread spontaneously everywhere. Because it roots deeply and is very resistant, it has often been used to consolidate landslides, as in the case of mountain soils where roads and railways pass.

Characteristic trees of paradise

The trees of paradisethey grow everywhere, in any position, even if they prefer open spaces reached by the sun; they endure pollution, cold, drought, strong heat and strong winds, which is why they have been used and, in many cases are still used today, for road trees. Ailanthus seeds can also be sown at home, although it is always better to prepare the plants first in individual containers. The important thing is to use fertile, well-drained and sandy soil. Under these conditions, the newly born plants develop different basal suckers, easily transportable to other soils where they will then root. Since it does not fear drought, there is no need to water it because rainwater is sufficient. Ailanthus is so easy to find that buying it is not convenient, unless you want to be 100% sure of the authenticity of the plant; however, recognizing it on the street is very simple due to the characteristics of its leaves, very long and in a row on long stems, and for its particular smell. You can take a branch and remove it by cutting; if you buy it the prices are generally low.

Tree of Heaven Risks

Before planting a tree of paradise you need to know a few things: in many areas of the world it is considered a weed, invasive and harmful to the biodiversity of natural environments, because it quickly colonizes the areas that surround it and destroys competitors by emitting allelopathic substances which, in the long run, they no longer make anything grow around them. The tree roots deeply and uprooting it is difficult because if the roots are cut then they can easily get out; in reality, the fight against ailanthus is a necessity only in environments where this species competes with other native species, therefore in parks or woods; in other areas, as in the case of city trees, this problem does not exist, as its reproduction is in any case controlled. If instead there is no control, then even in the city there is a risk that the ailanthus grows everywhere, even on the asphalt. Furthermore, all parts of the plant have a smell that for many is acrid and annoying. It is the fault of ailanthin, a toxic substance that can also cause irritation in humans and that prevents goats and insects from eating this plant.

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