Plant Assessment Form

Ailanthus altissima

Synonyms: A. glandulosa Desf.

Common Names: tree-of-heaven; Chinese sumac; paradise-tree; copal-tree

Evaluated on: 5/5/03

List committee review date: 04/09/2003

Re-evaluation date:

Evaluator(s)

Cynthia L. Roye/ Associate State Park Resource Ecologist
California State ParksNatural Resources Division
P.O. Box 942896, Sacramento, CA, 94296-0001
(916) 653-9083
croye@parks.ca.gov

List commitee members

Matt Brooks
Peter Warner
Joe DiTomaso
Doug Johnson

General Comments

No general comments for this species

Table 2. Criteria, Section, and Overall Scores

Overall Score? Moderate
Alert Status? No Alert
Documentation? 3 out of 5
Score Documentation
1.1 ?Impact on abiotic ecosystem processes C Reviewed Scientific Publication
Impact?
Four-part score CAUD Total Score
B
1.2 ?Impact on plant community A. Severe Reviewed Scientific Publication
1.3 ?Impact on higher trophic levels U. Unknown
1.4 ?Impact on genetic integrity D. None Other Published Material
2.1 ?Role of anthropogenic and natural disturbance in establishment A. Severe Reviewed Scientific Publication
Invasiveness?
Total Points
16 Total Score B
2.2 ?Local rate of spread with no management A. Increases rapidly Other Published Material
2.3 ?Recent trend in total area infested within state A. Increasing rapidly Other Published Material
2.4 ?Innate reproductive potential
(see Worksheet A)
B. Moderate Other Published Material
2.5 ?Potential for human-caused dispersal B. Moderate Other Published Material
2.6 ? Potential for natural long-distance dispersal B. Occasional Other Published Material
2.7 ?Other regions invaded C. Already invaded Other Published Material
3.1 ?Ecological amplitude/Range
(see Worksheet C)
A. Widespread Other Published Material
Distribution?
Total Score B
3.2 ?Distribution/Peak frequency
(see Worksheet C)
C. Low Other Published Material

Table 3. Documentation

Scores are explained in the "Criteria for Categorizing Invasive Non-Native Plants that Threaten Wildlands".

Section 1: Impact
Question 1.1 Impact on abiotic ecosystem processes? C Reviewed Scientific Publication
Identify ecosystem processes impacted:

Score C: Changes soil chemistry through allelopathy (ailanthone) Toxic levels maintained through the growing season although Heisey, R.M. states soil microbes rapidly detoxify ailanthone.


Sources of information:

The Nature Conservancy Element Stewardship Abstract for Ailanthus altissima accessed online at http://tncweeds.ucdavis.edu/esadocs/ailalti.html; Hunter IN: Bossard et al. 2000; Miller, 1990; De Feo et al. 2003. Isolation of phytotoxic compounds from Tree-of-Heaven (Ailanthus altissima Swingle). J. Agric. Food Chem. 51:1177-1180; Heisey, R.M. 1996. American Journal of Botany 83:(2) 192-200.


Question 1.2 Impact on plant community composition,
structure, and interactions?
A Reviewed Scientific Publication
Identify type of impact or alteration:

A; Displaces native plants. Produces many seeds, forms taproot readily, forms abundant root sprouts, clonal ramets. Can form monospecific stands, eliminating other vegetation. Combined with toxins, these strategies appear to give it a competitive advantage. Information about response to shade is contradictory. Per Grime (1965) Ailanthus has a high degree of shade tolerance per Grime 1965 (as cited by Hunter) but Kowarik, 1995, characterizes Ailanthus as a pioneering light-demanding species that may use clonal ramets to overcome lack of light.


Sources of information:

Hunter, J. IN: Bossard et al. 2000; Virginia Natural Heritage Program; Kowarik, I. 1995. The clonal growth of Ailanthus altissima on a natural site in West Virginia. Journal of Vegetation Science 6(6) 853-856.


Question 1.3 Impact on higher trophic levels? U
Identify type of impact or alteration:

Effect on upper trophic levels in California unknown. Is food for the ailanthus silkmoth, also known as the cynthia moth (Samia cynthia), that was introduced in an effort to establish a silk industry. Moths persist in spotty distribution along the Atlantic coast from Connecticut to Georgia and west to northern Kentucky. No information on interaction with native fauna found.


Sources of information:

Moths of North America, USGS Northern Prairie Center, accessed over the Internet at:http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/distr/lepid/moths/usa/1004.htm


Question 1.4 Impact on genetic integrity? D Other Published Material

None No closely related California natives or non-natives


Sources of information:

Hunter, J. IN Bossard et al. 2000.


Section 2: Invasiveness
Question 2.1 Role of anthropogenic and natural disturbance
in establishment?
A Other Published Material
Describe role of disturbance:

B. Found primarily in disturbed areas, of both human and natural origin. Is capable of clonal growth into undisturbed forest. Found is areas disturbed by humans such as along road cuts and in cities, where it was planted as a landscape tree, as well as in areas of natural disturbance such as riparian areas. Has spread into natural (undisturbed) forest in West Virginia through clonal ramets.


Sources of information:

Hunter IN: Bossard et al. eds. 2000. Wildland Weeds of California; The Nature Conservancy Element Stewardship Abstract, Hoshovsky 1988; Roye, 2002. Personal observation. Woodson Bridge SRA and roadsides along Interstate 80 in the Sierra Nevada foothills, Roye, 2003 Personal Pbservatopn along Hwy 299West of Weaverville. California State Parks. 2002. Natural Resources Condition Assessment, unpublished, Sacramento, CA; Kowarik, I. 1995. Clonal growth in Ailanthus altissima on an natural site in West Virginia. Journal of Vegetation Science. 6(6): 853-856.


Question 2.2 Local rate of spread with no management? A Other Published Material
Describe rate of spread:

High Within a short period of time one tree can "scatter seed for blocks around and can create a thicket of sprouts from its wide-spreading roots." An Internet pictorial of the spread of this plant in Massachussetts paints a compelling picture of its spread (0http://omega.cc.umb.edu/~conne/jennjim/ailanthus.html)


Sources of information:

Hunter IN:Bossard et al. 2000; Forest Preserve District of Cook County Illinois; Conservation of New England Past &nd Future. A graduate level course offered by Dr. Robert Stevenson through the Biology Department of the University of Massachusetts at Boston. Accessed over the Internet at: http://omega.cc.umb.edu/~conne/jennjim/ailanthus.html


Question 2.3 Recent trend in total area infested within state? A Other Published Material
Describe trend:

Increasing Although picture of spread in California is not well-documented, the plant is now in over 20 California counties.


Sources of information:

Hunter IN Bossard et al.;Hoshovsky, M.C. 1988. TNC Element Abstract as accessed on the Internet at:http://tncweeds.ucdavis.edu/esadocs/documnts/ailaalt.pdf


Question 2.4 Innate reproductive potential? B Other Published Material
Describe key reproductive characteristics:

Score 5 =B; dioecious, prolific seeder with one tree producing up to 1,000,000 seeds per year, sprouts from roots. THIS REPRESENTS A CHANGE FROM THE INTERNAL SCORE ASSIGNED BY COMMITTEE FEBRUARY 2003. I WAS UNABLE TO DOCUMENT A HIGHER SCORE. THE OVERALL RANKING OF THE PLANT (MEDIUM) DID NOT CHANGE. dioecious, prolific seeder with one mature tree producing up to 1,000,000 seeds per year, sprouts from roots. These seeds are easily airborne and can be transported by water and birds as well. Germination of seeds is rangyes from 14-75 percent but seedling establishment is rare. Most new shoots are root sprouts, mature trees send up extensive root suckers and sprouts from cut stumps. Sapling growth can reach 3-4 feet a year and can outgrow nearly any native tree, outcompeting natives for light. The roots give off a toxin that acts as a herbicide that can kill or inhibit the growth of other plants. Tree-of-heaven is somewhat shade-tolerant and can grow quickly when released by gaps in the forest canopy caused by windfalls, logging or defoliation due to insect pests such as gypsy moth (http://www.dnr.state.oh.us/dnap/invasive/17treeofheaven.htm)Hoshovsky, M. 1988. Element Stewardship Abstract for Tree-of-Heaven. The Nature Conservancy.


Sources of information:

Hoshovsky, M. 1999. Element Stewardship Abstract for Tree-of-Heaven. The Nature Conservancy ; http://www.dnr.state.oh.us/dnap/invasive/17treeofheaven.htm


Question 2.5 Potential for human-caused dispersal? B Other Published Material
Identify dispersal mechanisms:

B; Widely planted in California until the 1890s. Tolerant of very poor soil conditions including a pH of less than 4.1, high salt concentrations and phosphorus levels as low as 1.8 ppm. Has ben used to revegetate mine spoils. Has lost popularity as horticultural tree because of unpleasant odor and difficulty of control of spread. but still widely available per USDA PLANTS National Databaseand per search of Internet for seeds. Has lost popularity as horticultural tree because of unpleasant odor and difficulty of control of spread. was recently added to the California Department of Food and Agriculture Noxious Weeds List so availability could be reduced in those counties where the Agricultural Commissioner perceives it as a problem.


Sources of information:

USDA PLANTS National Datsa base as accessed at:http://plants.usda.gov/cgi_bin/plant_attreibute.cgi?symbol=AIAL, 1/2/2003. Hunter IN: Bossard et al. 2000.


Question 2.6 Potential for natural long-distance dispersal? B Other Published Material
Identify dispersal mechanisms:

B; Has light-weight winged samaras that could travel by wind and water but more frequently reproduces by sprouting. Germination is 14-75 percent.


Sources of information:

Hunter IN: Bossard et al. 2000. Matt Brooks, observational.


Question 2.7 Other regions invaded? C Other Published Material
Identify other regions:

C; Weedy in similar situations to those invaded in California primarily found in urban areas and disturbed places but also becoming an agricultural pest per PCA Alien Plant Working Group as accessed at:http://www/nps.gpv/plants/alien/fact/aial1.htm, 1/13/03.


Sources of information:

PCA Alien Plant Working Group as accessed at:http://www/nps.gpv/plants/alien/fact/aial1.htm, 1/13/03.


Section 3: Distribution
Question 3.1 Ecological amplitude/Range? A Other Published Material

Introduced to California during the 19th century, especially by gold miners.Score = A; Invades four major California types, six minor types. Persists adjacent to dwellings or homesteads near water sources (springs) in climates where it would not otherwise persist and may not easily invade such as desert springs. Dice, 2003. Personal Communication


Sources of information:

Hunter IN: Bossard et al. 2000. Roye, 2002. Personal Observation. Woodson Bridge SRA and roadsides along Interstate 80 in Sierra Nevada foothills. Roye, 2003. Personal Observation. Along Hwy 299 West of Weaverville. California State Parks. 2002. Natural Resources Condition Assessment, unpublished, Sacramento, CA.


Question 3.2 Distribution/Peak frequency? C Other Published Material
Describe distribution:

Most noticeable in disturbed areas adjacent to roads. Estimated to invade 5-20 % of the occurrences of invaded types, statewide. Most noticeable in disturbed areas adjacent to roads. Estimated to invade 5-20 % of the occurrences of invaded types, statewide.


Sources of information:

Committee discussion, February 2003.


Worksheet A - Innate reproductive potential

Reaches reproductive maturity in 2 years or less No
Dense infestations produce >1,000 viable seed per square meter Yes
Populations of this species produce seeds every year. Yes
Seed production sustained over 3 or more months within a population annually No
Seeds remain viable in soil for three or more years No
Viable seed produced with both self-pollination and cross-pollination No
Has quickly spreading vegetative structures (rhizomes, roots, etc.) that may root at nodes Yes
Fragments easily and fragments can become established elsewhere Unknown
Resprouts readily when cut, grazed, or burned Yes
Total points: 5
Total unknowns: 1
Total score: B?

Related traits:

An abundance of sprouts can develop from wide-spreading shallow root system following death or injury to main stem. (Miller, J.H. 1990. IN: Burns, R.M. and B.H. Honkala. Silvics of North America, Vol. 2, Hardwoods. Agricultutal Handbook 654, USDA, Washington, D.C.)

Worksheet B - Arizona Ecological Types is not included here

Worksheet C - California Ecological Types

(sensu Holland 1986)
Major Ecological Types Minor Ecological Types Code?
Marine Systemsmarine systems
Freshwater and Estuarine lakes, ponds, reservoirs
Aquatic Systemsrivers, streams, canals
estuaries
Dunescoastal
desert
interior
Scrub and Chaparralcoastal bluff scrub
coastal scrub
Sonoran desert scrub
Mojavean desert scrub (incl. Joshua tree woodland)
Great Basin scrub
chenopod scrub
montane dwarf scrub
Upper Sonoran subshrub scrub
chaparral
Grasslands, Vernal Pools, Meadows, and other Herb Communitiescoastal prairieD, < 5%
valley and foothill grassland
Great Basin grassland
vernal poolD, < 5%
meadow and seep
alkali playa
pebble plain
Bog and Marshbog and fen
marsh and swampC, 5% - 20%
Riparian and Bottomland habitatriparian forestC, 5% - 20%
riparian woodlandC, 5% - 20%
riparian scrub (incl.desert washes)C, 5% - 20%
Woodlandcismontane woodland
piñon and juniper woodland
Sonoran thorn woodland
Forestbroadleaved upland forest
North Coast coniferous forest
closed cone coniferous forestD, < 5%
lower montane coniferous forest
upper montane coniferous forest
subalpine coniferous forest
Alpine Habitatsalpine boulder and rock field
alpine dwarf scrub
Amplitude (breadth): A
Distribution (highest score): C

Infested Jepson Regions

Click here for a map of Jepson regions

  • CA Floristic Province
  • Cascade Range
  • Central West
  • Great Valley
  • Northwest
  • Sierra Nevada
  • Southwest
  • Great Basin Province
  • Modoc Plateau
  • Sierra Nevada East
  • Desert Province
  • Mojave Desert
  • Sonoran Desert