linden tree of heaven smell

If you smell a certain male bodily fluid in Toronto don't worry it's just trees

Summer has arrived and with it the typical floral aromas of life blooming around the city. But there's one smell wafting from a specific type of tree in Toronto, its odour reminding passersby of a certain male bodily fluid.

Known as the tree of heaven, this deciduous tree blooms every June, becoming the annual butt of jokes for its characteristic biological funk.

Its scientific name is Ailanthus Altissima, but the tree often goes by…ummm…another unofficial name.

The pungent smell of a tree of heaven in bloom may catch you off guard on a walk about the city, but I assure you, you're almost certainly smelling a tree and not some nearby shenanigans.

The telltale stank comes (don't make that face at me) from chemicals released by the tree's flowers.

What you're actually smelling is a combination of trimethylamine and dimethylamine, derivatives of ammonia that are also found in…let's just call it male reproductive fluid.

This chemical cocktail can also give the tree a bit of a fishy odour when it isn't busy smelling like...uhh...that first thing.

The Ailanthus Altissima is common in Toronto parks and neighbourhoods, and while its omnipresence suggests that people actually want the trees around, the genus instead spreads through pollination and is referred to as a weed tree for its ability to spread.

And for anyone out there who thinks it might be a good idea to intentionally plant one of these trees in your yard, think of the smell. You haven't thought of the smell.

Lead photo by

NatureServe


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