Tree of Heaven Identification – Now’s the time to LOOK!

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Perhaps you have noticed a rosy glow to the Tree of Heaven (Ailantus altissima) that scatter the roadside. No, those aren't flowers, as the flowering stage of this invasive pest has come and gone. Rather, Tree of Heaven has produced its seed pods, also known as samaras. Each 1-to-2-inch-long twisted samara is single seeded and winged for future flight.




Tree of heaven seed pods hang from a branch.



These clusters of seed pods will continue to deepen in color as they mature. Now is a great time to scout and identify the location of these pesky trees.





Tree of Heaven is a dioecious plant. That means that the species has separate male and female trees. As such, only female trees have seed pods.  


Below, a female Tree of Heaven has produced its seed for this year.


toh 6



And as you can see, it can be spotted from very far off due to its conspicuous seed pods.


toh far off



The plant that can sometimes cause confusion from a distance is Staghorn Sumac, Rhus typhina.


But when they are both in flower/fruit, it’s easy to differentiate between the two.


Sumac fruit:





Tree of Heaven fruit:


toh fruit



And remember, Tree of Heaven is a preferred host of Spotted Lanternfly. Yet another reason to be on the lookout for their whereabouts!






By identifying Tree of Heaven and its location, you can scout for Spotted Lanternfly once a week and report your findings to the Great Lakes Early Detection Network App on your phone. We need your eyes!


Download the app:


Get out and scout!