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Ailanthus altissima
Tree of heaven

Tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima) is medium-sized deciduous tree, native to China. The tree was brought to France more than 260 years ago and has now spread to several countries across Europe.

The tree is mainly used as an ornamental as well as for the establishment of protective forest shelterbelts and in traditional medicine. The wood is rather weak, but is used for cabinetry, turned objects and pulpwood.

Tree of heaven is fast-growing and able to quickly colonize open and ruderal spaces. Besides having a thick root system with suckers which shoot upwards, the species emits a poison, stopping the growth of neighbouring plants. As a result, the tree is extremely competitive and often overwhelming to existing ecosystems; hence, it is considered an invasive species in most of Europe.

Tree of heaven is not tolerant to shade and requires a warm climate. It grows on most soil types in various conditions, including drought, air pollution and poor soils. These abilities make the tree suitable in an urban context. However, some countries have considered banning the species due to its invasiveness.

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