Forest crops: Ailanto

Forest crops: Ailanto

Classification, origin and diffusion

Division: Spermatophyta
Subdivision: Angiospermae
Class: Dicotyledones
Family: Simarubacee

Commonly called tree of heaven, tree of paradise, tree of the sun, ailanthus of China, Ailanthus is a tree native to temperate areas of China. Introduced in Europe in the 18th century as a garden plant, it has escaped almost everywhere, from England to Mediterranean Europe. It grows easily and forms dense populations that supplant the native vegetation. It grows everywhere even among the rubble and on abandoned walls.

Ailanto (photo

Ailanthus leaves (website photo)

General characteristics

Size, trunk and bark
It can reach 20 meters in height. It has a broad and irregular crown, sparse, initially not very branched.
The bark is almost smooth grayish.
Deciduous, alternate, imparipinnate, up to 90 cm long, with 6-15 pairs of sharp lanceolate segments with petiole plus a terminal segment; have oil glands at the base which give off an unpleasant odor.
Reproductive structures
The flowers are greenish panicles with 5-7 mm long white-yellow flowers, bisexual and unisexual, the latter tending to spread over distinct plants (polygamous-dioecious species); they have a pleasant scent.
The fruits are lanceolate samare, reddish brown, persistent in winter on the plant.

Ailanto - Ailanthus altissima


In the nineteenth century, following the disastrous epidemics of the silkworm, it was widespread in an attempt to obtain silk from another worm (Philosamia cynthia) which feeds on its leaves. The results were unfortunately disappointing due to the poor adaptability of the insect to the European environment. Rustic tree of great adaptability to different types of soil, it has an invasive root system that serves to fix soils corroded by water.
Ailanto wood is soft and is used in the paper industry; while the use as an ornamental plant is very limited due to the unpleasant smell of the leaves.

Video: Agroforestry Practices - Silvopasture (December 2021).