Tree of Heaven

This plant, found along the Turon River among others places and which can grow into a substantial tree, is popularly considered to have been brought to Australia by Chinese people. The Tree of Heaven or Ailanthus altissima is certainly native to China, though of the north rather than the south from where nearly all Chinese people in Australia came before 1949. The Tree of Heaven was also popular in both Europe and the United States as early as the 18th century, meaning it could have easily come to Australia via these regions as well as directly from China.

The Tree of Heaven is considered in Chinese medicine to have various useful properties, especially as an astringent. Another feature is that it is supposed to give off a bad smell when the leaves are crushed, its Chinese name – 臭椿 – has the meaning ‘smelly toon’. In NSW, however, the Tree of Heaven is considered a weed, mainly because its strong growth and extensive suckers allows it to outcompete most other plants once established.