Excited that the topic of discussion had turned to the tree of heaven, I went out yesterday to photograph (in the rain) my favorite specimen of ailanthus altissima so far: a couple of trees growing in a tiny city park that borders the Prospect Highway. Well, actually, describing them as “in” the park isn’t really correct because, typical of this strand of misfit tree, the trunks actually sprout from the ground just beyond the park fence, squished up between it and the wall of the highway! You can see them against the ivy-covered back of the park in the right half of the picture above.
In this photo, looking down over the highway, you can kind of see the trunks emerging from just inside the highway wall.
The park, labeled “Park,” is a quarter-circle shape on the corner of Prospect Ave. and 6th Ave. in Brooklyn. Despite its small size, it appears to be tended pretty well by the city and is a regular hangout for neighborhood pigeons and folks. I wonder if the tree was forced to grow on the outside of the park fence, ostracized by city gardeners who perhaps kept pulling out trunks appearing within? Or… doesn’t it almost seem like ailanthus altissima prefers to grow out of the most restrictive spaces?!
A view of the tree of heaven from the park side of the ivy-covered fence.
I continued my rainy-day walk and discovered many more trees of heaven, all of which had come up in places they weren’t supposed to, all of which looked like they’d been cut back several times.
At 524 6th Ave., one was growing right out from under the building. A branch had recently snapped off – due to wind, I suppose. Because the tree of heaven is one of the fastest-growing trees in the city, its wood is pretty brittle.
Here are some more views of the same tree. The base of the trunk looks fused to the cement – perhaps a homeowner tried pouring cement to inhibit its growth?
Looking up at the place where the branch used to be attached.
Not far from the trunk of the main tree, another is cropping up in front of a door. Looks like there’s been one meager attempt to cut it back.
Another crop-up around the side of the building has been cut back a few times. As the tree of heaven is a suckering tree (which means it sends up multiple sprouts from its roots), I assume all of these crop-ups at 524 are from the same root system as the main tree.
At 464 6th Ave. sits a vacant lot. Each summer it becomes a jungle of weeds. Ailanthus altissima makes an appearance at this social gathering of greens on the right.
I spotted another one on 17th St., growing out of the wall of a church – the same church that harbors the drainpipe tree!
Here’s a closer view.
Nearby, on 17th St. at 5th Ave., a tree of heaven erupts from the side of a fire hydrant. Again, its favorite spot to grow seems to be out of the smallest space possible.
Share with us your photos of ailanthus altissima growing in the unlikeliest places! Send photos and/or stories to firstname.lastname@example.org.