Ailanthus altissima

Tree of heaven

Family: Simaroubaceae

Origin: China

Single Tree of Heaven leaf set.
A deciduous tree from China that can grow up to 25m tall. Tree of heaven flowers are a pale green/ white and appear in spring.
Photo credit: John M. Randall, The Nature Conservancy Wildland Invasive Species Team

Regional Pest Management Plan (RPMP) status

  • National Pest Plant Accord Species
  • Aotea — Eradication
  • Whole region — Sustained control

View more about the RPMP statuses

General description

Deciduous tree < 25 m tall. Leaves are < 40 x 70 cm and compound. Flowers are pale green/white and borne in spring. Seeds are borne in flat, twisted, papery, winged samaras and mature in autumn.

What you need to know

To help protect our environment:

  • You must not breed, distribute, release or sell tree of heaven. As tree of heaven is a National Pest Plant Accord species, these restrictions apply within the Auckland region and across the whole of New Zealand.
  • You must not plant tree of heaven within the Auckland region, unless you are transferring an existing plant on your land to another location within the boundaries of the same property.
  • You must destroy any tree of heaven on land that you occupy if it has been planted in breach of the above rules and you are directed to do so by an authorised person.

Auckland Council will control tree of heaven at all sites within the Aotea/Great Barrier Island group where it is known to occur.

If you see tree of heaven anywhere on Aotea/Great Barrier Island group, please report it to Auckland Council at


Forest gaps and margins, wasteland, roadsides, urban areas, agricultural areas, riparian margins, urban areas, disturbed habitats.


Seeds dispersed by wind and water. Vegetative spread from suckering.

Impact on environment

Forms dense stands and suppresses vegetation through allelopathy. May alter nutrient cycling regimes and facilitate the establishment of pest plant species.


Site Management

Follow up treated areas 3 times per year. Encourage natural regeneration of native plants or replant treated areas where possible after 2-3 treatments to establish dense ground cover and minimise reinvasion.

Recommended approaches

Do not attempt to undertake control of this species on Aotea/Great Barrier Island group. Please report to Auckland Council if seen on Aotea/Great Barrier Island group.

Physical control

Method: Dig or pull out.

Plant parts requiring disposal: Seeds.

Disposal options: Remove to greenwaste or landfill if practical.


Biocontrol is currently not available for this species.

Community agrichemical control recommendations

No qualifications: Cut stump and paste freshly cut base of stems with metsulfuron gel.

Basic Growsafe certified: Cut stump and spray freshly cut base with 1g metsulfuron-methyl per 1 L of water.

Certified Handler/Experienced agrichemical user: Drill and inject trees with 10g metsulfuron-methyl per 1L of water if safe to do so. Drill 18mm holes (tangentially angled downwards) in a spiral up the trunk.

For 50mm stems drill one hole. For 100mm stems drill two holes. For larger stems drill holes 150mm apart. Foliar spray seedlings with 5g metsulfuron-methyl per 10L of water and 20ml penetrant.

Safety notes

Large trees must not be drilled that are closer than 1.5 times the height of the tree from paths, walkways and property.

Trees over 4 metres in height should be removed by a qualified arborist.

Caution: When using any herbicide or pesticide please read the label thoroughly to ensure that all instructions and safety requirements are followed.

Tree of Heaven flowers and leaves.
Tree of heaven flowers are surrounded in red bracts making the flowers of the tree very attractive. Once pollinated the flowers form into seeds that are flat, twisted and papery.
Photo credit: John M. Randall, The Nature Conservancy Wildland Invasive Species Team
Tree of Heaven branch tip with leaves.
Branches can be red or green and burst in spring. Tree of heaven seeds mature in autumn and are spread by wind and water.
Photo credit: John M. Randall, The Nature Conservancy Wildland Invasive Species Team