tree of heavenTree of Heaven

Common name: Tree of Heaven; Chinese sumac
Botanical name: Ailanthus altissima
Management programme: Advisory

Originally from northeast and central China, it was introduced to New Zealand as an ornamental tree. It was enthusiastically planted as a street tree around Europe and America in the 1800s before the plant's invasive tendencies and foul odour were realised.

Why is it a pest?

  • Prolific seeder which grows rapidly.
  • Aggressive root system that produces toxins to prevent other plant species establishing around it.
  • Spreads through seed and suckers, suckers. Re-sprouts from cut stumps & root fragments.

Where is it found?

Found in small isolated sites in the Bay of Plenty. It like high light areas with poor soil (such as clay), spreading along roadsides and waste places from gardens or plantations.

What does it look like?

  • Deciduous tree up to 30m tall with smooth grey bark with pale stripes.
  • Leaves are very large (40-100cm long), with 5-20 pairs of alternating leaflets and a single leaflet at the tip.
  • Has clusters of yellow-green flowers (December to January) followed by seeds inside pink-tan papery sheaths. Separate male and female flowers are produced on different plants.
  • All parts of the tree have a strong smell similar to peanuts or cashew nuts.

What are the rules?


Council does not enforce the control of advisory species. It is landowner/ occupier responsibility to manage these pests. Council may provide advice on how to manage or control advisory species if required.

How to get rid of it

  1. Pull or dig up young seedlings (all year round). Need to ensure the entire plant, including roots and fragments are removed as they will regrow. Dispose of in the general waste section at a refuse transfer station.
  2. Basal bark treat (late winter- early spring) with herbicide.
  3. Cut and stump treat (spring- summer) with herbicide.
  4. Spray (spring-summer) with herbicide.

Follow up control may be required.


CAUTION: When using any herbicide or pesticide, PLEASE READ THE LABEL THOROUGHLY to ensure that all instructions and directions for the purchase, use and storage of the product, are followed and adhered to.

Read more on pest control advice, information and regulations