These deciduous, tall-growing trees are natives of China and India. They are commonly known as Trees of Heaven, Chinese Sumachs and Paradise Trees. These trees grow quickly and in many types of soil and climates. They are very resistant to diseases and pests and are suitable for growing in cities. The most popular kind is A. altissima. This variety can grow from 50 to 100 feet high. It has large, pinnate leaves, 1½ to 3 feet long, alternately arranged on the branches, which open a reddish color in the spring. The leaves consist of 11 to 31, ovate to lance-shaped leaflets that are smooth and dark green above, paler beneath. The leaves have a foul odor when crushed. Male and female flowers are borne on separate trees. They are greenish colored. The female flowers are followed by 6- to 12-inch clusters of winged, yellow to orange-red fruits. A variety of A. altissima, erythrocarpa, has brilliant red seed clusters that persist on the branches even after the leaves have fallen. Female trees are preferred over male trees because of their showy seed clusters and because their blossoms lack the offensive odor that the male flowers have. It is also better to have female trees with no male trees around to prevent unwanted seedlings from cropping up.
Paradise Trees will flourish in just about every kind of soil and light conditions. Underground shoots should immediately be cut as soon as they appear. Pruning should be done in the winter; it consists of removing crowded branches and keeping the main shoot of each tree clear of other branches or shoots.
Paradise Trees self-sow readily. To prevent this, don't grow male trees nearby. They can easily be increased by root cuttings. In early spring, roots should be dug up and thin pieces (the size of a knitting needle), 2 or 3 inches long, should be cut. Place these in a flat of sandy soil in a cold frame or insert in them in sandy soil outdoors.