words by ethel and paul

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The Un-Paradise Tree

Salt Lake City is paradise for the Paradise Tree (“Tree of Heaven” - Ailanthus altissima). Its plentiful seeds germinate everywhere you don’t want a tree: in your foundation, in your sidewalk, in your flower garden. It also suckers wherever it pleases.

Ailanthus must be curbed somehow or we will be smothered in a forest of beautiful but unpleasant and poisonous trees.

The article below is from the Harvard Heart Letter of October 2005, published by Harvard Medical School. 

Ethel C. Hale and W. Paul Wharton

Tree of heaven may be hard on the heart

Sap from a common, weedy tree known
as tree of heaven, Chinese sumac, and
stinking sumac (Ailanthus altissima)
could cause myocarditis, an uncommon
inflammation of the heart.
    Doctors at Strong Memorial
Hospital in Rochester, New York,
treated a 24-year-old tree surgeon with myocarditis. He had been clearing an
area infested with tree of heaven, and
sap from the plants entered his blood
stream through some broken blisters.
He fully recovered. According to the
man, others in his team also had chest
pain and related symptoms.

    In a letter to the July 19, 2005,
Annals of Internal Medicine, the
Strong team suggested that proteins
called quassinoids in tree of heaven
sap may cause myocarditis.
    This is the first reported case of
tree of heaven causing myocarditis,
so you needn't worry if you have to
remove one from your driveway or
backyard. But you might want to
wear gloves and be careful to avoid
contact with the sap.
    To read about tree of heaven and
see pictures of it, see the National
Park Service's comprehensive article at