Common Name(s): Ailanthus, tree of heaven, Chinese sumac
Scientific Name: Ailanthus altissima
Distribution: Native to China; widely naturalized worldwide
Tree Size: 65-100 ft (20-30 m) tall,
2-3 ft (.6-1 m) trunk diameter
Average Dried Weight: 37.1 lbs/ft3 (600 kg/m3)
Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .44, .60
Janka Hardness: 1,420 lbf (6,300 N)
Modulus of Rupture: 11,060 lbf/in2 (76.2 MPa)
Elastic Modulus: 1,623,000 lbf/in2 (11,19 GPa)
Crushing Strength: 6,680 lbf/in2 (46.1 MPa)
Shrinkage: Radial: 6.1%, Tangential: 10.8%,
Volumetric: 17.1%, T/R Ratio: 1.8
Grain/Texture: Has an open, porous texture and a moderate natural luster.
Rot Resistance: No data available; reported to have good insect resistance.
Workability: Easy to work with hand and machine tools. Turns, glues, stains, and finishes well.
Odor: No characteristic odor.
Pricing/Availability: No data available.
Sustainability: This wood species is not listed in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. In many locations it’s considered to be an invasive or pest species.
Common Uses: Cabinetry, turned objects, and paper (pulpwood).
Comments: Once viewed as an honored ornamental tree in China, resulting in it becoming widely naturalized throughout much of the world during the 19th century. Today, ailanthus’ quick growth and hardiness have proved to be overwhelming for many ecosystems, and it is widely viewed as an invasive species.
The tree is commonly called tree of heaven—from the Ambonese word aylanto (rendered ailanthus in Latin). The name is in reference to the great heights of the tree (helped by a very robust grow rate). One Ailanthus species native to Melasia, Ailanthus integrifolia, can reach heights up to 200 feet (60 meters) and may be the original source for the common name, aylanto—tree of heaven.
Porosity: ring porous
Arrangement: earlywood in single broken row, latewood in diagonal/tangential arrangement
Vessels: very large earlywood pores, small to medium latewood pores
Parenchyma: vasicentric, winged, and confluent in latewood
Rays: medium to wide; wide spacing
Lookalikes/Substitutes: Can be confused with species of ash (Fraxinus genus) as well as sassafras (Sassafras albidum). Both of these lookalikes can be distinguished from ailanthus by the ray width. Ailanthus has wider rays that are generally visible even without magnification, while the others have narrower rays that can’t be seen clearly without magnification.
Another less common wood that bears an even closer resemblance to ailanthus is hackberry (Celtis occidentalis). Hackberry’s lighter colored sapwood (excluding its darker heartwood) matches in both appearance and anatomy. However, hackberry’s earlywood pores are in rows at least two to three pores wide, while ailanthus tends to have its earlywood pores in a row more or less only one pore wide.