In my last posting, I appealed for information about a tree I was sure had its roots in the very bowels of hell. Turns out I should have been looking up instead of down. I'm now convinced that I have a Tree of Heaven. Both Jeremy at Paradise in Progress and Iowa Gardening Women at My Iowa Garden suggested I had a Sumac. That sent me down a research path that would deliver only bad news.
Ailanthus altissima, also known as Chinese Sumac, is a native of China that has made itself more than welcome in Canada, and across North America. It is an invasive species that seeds like crazy. Its roots are so powerful that they can cause severe damage to pipes and even building foundations. My assessment of its "unkillability" turned out to be spot on. It's very hard, if not impossible, to get rid of. And despite its dreamy "Tree of Heaven" moniker, it also goes by another, perhaps more appropriate name: the Stink Tree.
I started my online search looking for Sumac. But my husband pointed out that the leaves in all the pictures didn't quite match ours. Most of the sumacs we saw had serated leaf edges while our tree leaves were smooth. I then came upon a Chinese Sumac photo and the leaves were a match. I knew I was getting closer when I saw that Chinese sumac leaves have a "gland" or slight swelling on them. I found swelling after swelling on our leaves. The odour given off by the plant was another giveaway. It smells sort of like nuts. While most of the online info I read described the smell as offensive, I'd say it's rather innocuous. The scar left behind by a snapped-off branch also matched that of Ailanthus altissima. I think we have a winner.
So it is an evil invader after all, despite a lovely name. Perhaps that's part of its success. Who would want to cut down a Tree of Heaven? Oh yeah....me. Time to get hacking.