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Mike's Blog - Day 148

“Tree of heaven” for you today, Ailanthus altissima by the small gazebo near the cherry circle.

Here you can see its flowers.

It’s a nice tree, but has become quite invasive in some countries where it has been introduced. It’s a bit like wild Rhododendron in that its roots can give something off which stops other plants growing around it. Ours is just in the lawn but it might not be a good tree in a shrubbery.

It has a strange mark towards the end of its leaves, on tiny lobes. I had in my mind that someone has once said it was to do with ants.

I checked with the plant guru himself, Dr Phil Gates, and he came back with a few suggestions. Most likely he thinks it will be a gland which will exude some sort of sweet reward possibly for ants, and when the ants visit they might be predating on some other pest that infects the tree, cleaning it up. The other theory is that the plant excreted something it doesn’t want from them, but he said the ant story sounded most plausible. Trees generally get rid of toxins and things they don’t want when they drop their leaves in autumn.

No point us looking too closely as the plant is out of its natural range, and it might even be something which it no longer needs any way, but had a use for way back in time.

Phil has a great website. It is well worth a look:


The gazebo was given to us by the friends of the garden. Here is a shot of it when it was opened in 2001 (thanks to Claire for checking as I’m not in today and forgot yesterday). It was opened by Lady Calman who was heavily involved with the friends of the garden in those days. the garden walks ended in Hollingside House where she lived with our Vice Chancellor at the time, Sir Kenneth Calman. You can just about see the tree of heaven in the old picture, but its mostly hidden by a cherry tree.

Lady Calman was in our buggy as she had a broken leg at the time and didn’t want to let us down for the opening.

The Calmans donated two metal herons “Harry and Hermione” to the garden when they lived here. One is at the monkey puzzle pond and the other is in the main pond by the greenhouse. Their daughter, the comedian Susan Calman, is quite famous these days. Also of Strictly come Dancing fame.