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Fasciation in Ailanthus altissima, "Tree of Heaven"

Making It Grow Radio Minute

Herrick Brown, now the curator of the A C Moore Herbarium at U S C, visited us recently with eye-popping examples of fasciation in plants. The most bizarre – but in a good way – was the wildly flattened and divided stem of Tree of Heaven, an invasive that grows anywhere (it’s the plant reference in the title of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn) – I’ve seen it next to dumpsters behind stores and sadly in wooded areas. Native to China, Ailanthus altissima also has the common name stinking sumac – it resembles our native sumac, but its flowers have a particularly offensive smell. The stunningly exotic looking specimen Herrick brought had possibly been the target of herbicide which can sometimes result in fasciation in plants – but natural causes, insect damage, disease or others can also produce this bizarre yet intriguing growth.

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Amanda McNulty is a Clemson University Extension Horticulture agent and the host of South Carolina ETV’s Making It Grow! gardening program. She studied horticulture at Clemson University as a non-traditional student. “I’m so fortunate that my early attempts at getting a degree got side tracked as I’m a lot better at getting dirty in the garden than practicing diplomacy!” McNulty also studied at South Carolina State University and earned a graduate degree in teaching there.