Seed production, viability, and reproductive limits of the invasive Ailanthus altissima (tree-of-heaven) within invaded environments

Kristen L. Wickert, Eric S. O'Neal, Donald D. Davis, Matthew T. Kasson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


The success of some invasive tree species is attributed, in part, to high fecundity in the form of sexual propagules. If invasive trees produce more seed annually than co-occurring native trees, they will have a greater ability to disperse and establish across the landscape. In this study, seed production of female Ailanthus trees was investigated to determine (1) reproductive age limits; (2) annual and cumulative seed output; and (3) seed viability. Existing data on Ailanthus seed production were combined with a novel dataset to compare variability in seed production and explore relationships with tree diameter and age. Results from this study showed Ailanthus' reproductive window is exceptional, spanning more than a century, with seed viability exceeding 65% from a 104-year-old individual. Germination studies and complementary tetrazolium assays also confirmed high propagule viability from a 7-year-old Ailanthus and supports tetrazolium assays as a proxy for germination studies. Not only can individual Ailanthus produce >1 million seeds annually, but a significant relationship exists between seed production and tree diameter. Using this relationship, cumulative seed production in individual Ailanthus can reach ca. 10 and 52 million seeds over a 40-year and 100-year period, respectively. This study provides a comprehensive investigation of various facets of the reproductive potential of Ailanthus.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number226
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jun 27 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Forestry


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