An intractable weed unleashed from its native forests in China, Ailanthus altissima, the Tree of Heaven, is perhaps the epitome of the invasive urban tree. Often maligned, what would it mean to reexamine our relationship with this once-invited, now-despised plant? As a splendid specimen in the Arboretum, a flourishing wild population in Bussey Brook Meadow, and in feral profusion at the edges of the Arboretum and the city beyond, Ailanthus is as provocative as it is successful. Matthew Battles, associate director of metaLAB at Harvard and Kyle Parry, a recent doctoral recipient from Harvard’s Department of Visual and Environmental Studies, delve into the history and presence of this ubiquitous urban “bad boy” as they ponder culture and collections.
By Car: From Centre Street, take Walter Street to Bussey Street, to South Street. Or take the Arborway and exit to Washington Street to turn right onto South Street. Park at the William A. Hinton State Laboratory Institute, 305 South Street, Jamaica Plain. The mesa is across South Street from the Labs and above the Bussey Brook Meadow section of the Arboretum.
Public Transportation: Take the T to Forest Hills. Exit the station at the upper level. Cross Washington Street and walk uphill on South Street towards the State Labs to the mesa.
See map for routes around the Arboretum’s perimeter.