Submitted by Manny
I have always been fascinated by the Ailanthus tree since I was a kid growing up in Dorchester, Massachusetts, a rough inner city section of Boston. I used to crush the leaves in my hands and smell its intoxicating aroma. I used to daydream about possible medicinal and or industrial uses for it. Perhaps deep in its chemical makeup there may be a cure for cancer and we would never know because of its notoriety.
The tree shares the same struggle as do the people it shares its environment with. The plant is ignored, maligned and seen as an ugly, overpopulating scourge to be eliminated by the dominant American society. It is referred to as Ghetto Palm and considered a weed. (see http://terriermandotcom.blogspot.com/2006/05/ghetto-palms-in-hedge.html)
Despite the odds, the plant thrives against whatever is thrown at it where others die off. The Chinese call it the Tree of Heaven and the Europeans highly regard the plant so much so they plant it in their prized botanical gardens. (see http://books.google.com/books?id=J_0CAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA155&lpg=PA155&dq=ailantus&source=web&ots=PRWq7IimJa&sig=PxurNVYhO47T5mWoztedhK67hn4) It is in this same vain that the most highly regarded and cherished aspects of American culture by the Europeans and the Chinese arise out of the peoples of inner city America: Hip Hop. Another man’s trash is another man’s gold.
Ailanthus should be the official shrub of the Hip Hop movement. It should be emblazoned on the hoodies, jackets, sneakers of rappers as a symbol of the common roots its shares with this mighty and noble plant.
[Thanks, Manny! Are you a fan of this tree? Send your thoughts, clippings and pictures of Ailanthus, the Ghetto Palm, the Tree of Heaven, to me and I will feature them here on the website. – bingregory]