Ailanthus triphysa (SIMAROUBACEAE); White bean, white siris

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Foliage

Flower

ailanthus triphysa
Ailanthus triphysa - flower - Paul Donatiu © 2002
Medium tree to 30m from Clarence River, NSW to Cape York, Nth Qld and also India and Melanesia. Most often found close to the coast in littoral and monsoon rainforests but also in riverine and dry scrubs.

A fast growing and hardy tree. It develops a sparse branched, open crown. The bitter bark and sap of this plant contains alkaloids that have been used for medicinal preparations. Rows Of small lenticels (breathing pores) give the bark a rough texture.

Leaves are compound, alternate and spirally arranged, with up to 60 leaflets asymmetrical at the base. The leaves have an unpleasant smell, similar to that of the introduced Tree of Heaven Ailanthus altissima, a suckering weed.

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 samara is a one-seeded, winged fruit, which is not expelled from a capsule.

An attractive ornamental tree as it has a candelabrum type branch structure and the crown of leaflets gives its foliage a feathery appearance. It is hardy in fairly dry sites, but needs excellent drainage.

Propagate from fresh seed, which can be hard to collect and irregular in germinantion.

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Ailanthus triphysa - trunk - David Somerville  2002
Ailanthus triphysa - trunk - David Somerville © 2002
Ailanthus from the Latinization of “ai lan it” or “ailanto” the Moluccan name, meaning reaching for the sky, for A. molucuanna or A. intergrifolia; the Tree of Heaven, the first named species in the genus; triphysa from Greek “tri” three and “physa” bladder, perhaps referring to the flattened bladder-like fruits in groups of three.

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A young specimen near Jolly's Lookout, Mt Nebo.

Ailanthus
PHOTO: Robert Whyte