A. triphysa is dioecious, with male and female flowers being borne on different individuals. Male trees produce three to four times as many flowers as the females, making the male flowers more conspicuous. Furthermore, the male plants emit a foul-smelling odour while flowering to attract pollinating insects.
Branchlets covered with many leaf scars. Young stems pubescent. Bark grey, rough. Leaves usually with a terminal leaflet.
Flowers are cream/green in narrow panicles from upper leaf axils. November-January.
Fruit is a brownish, dry winged samara up to 5cm long and usually held in a cluster of three. Ripe March-April.
A useful shade provider. Leaf litter restores soil fertility. Often planted for aesthetic purposes.
Photo: Robert Whyte. Location: Mt Nebo Road near Jolly’s ookout.
Name and distribution
The generic name ‘Ailanthus’ comes from ‘ailanthos’ (tree of heaven), the Indonesian name for Ailanthus moluccana, triphysa from Greek “tri” three and “physa” bladder, perhaps referring to the flattened bladder-like fruits in groups of three.
The Genus also native to Asia – found in wet evergreen forests of the western Ghats, from the Konkan, North Kanara and Karnataka southwards to Travancore. Grown extensively in India.
Another species, A. altissima, is a native of northern and central China, and is an invasive species elsewhere.
The number of species is disputed, with some authorities accepting up to ten species, while others accept six or fewer. Species include:
Ailanthus altissima China Ailanthus excelsa – India and Sri Lanka Ailanthus integrifolia – New Guinea, Australia Ailanthus malabarica – southeast Asia Ailanthus triphysa – Australia Ailanthus vilmoriniana – China
Juvenile. Photo: Robert Whyte Location: Yoorala Street near Enoggera Reservoir.
Sow seeds at medium density and cover lightly. Germination takes 2-6 weeks.
Photo: Robert Whyte