Fast-growing single-stemmed pioneer tree to 30 m in dry, littoral and subtropical rainforest north from Iluka NSW. Large compound leaves of up to 60 leaflets asymmetrical at the base. 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. They flower from November to January. Fruit is a brownish, dry winged samara up to 5 cm long and usually held in a cluster of three. Ripe March to 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
Fast growing and hardy. It develops a sparse branched, open crown. Candelabrum type branch structure and the crown of leaflets gives its foliage a feathery appearance. The sap of this plant contains alkaloids that have been used for medicinal preparations.
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 where it is 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 (South-East Asia), Ailanthus triphysa (Australia), Ailanthus vilmoriniana (China).
Juvenile. Photo: Robert Whyte Location: Yoorala Street near Enoggera Reservoir.
Collect green-brown winged fruit from tree when available. Seed dispersal period is short. Dry in a paper bag until seeds open. Sow seeds at medium density and cover lightly. Germination takes 2-6 weeks.