The Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima) is native to China, where it has been used for centuries in traditional medicines. From 1740, it started to appear around the world as a popular garden plant. Due to voracious propagation, mild toxicity, & stench - it is now classified as a noxious weed here in Australia and the USA. It is sometimes referred to on the east coast as a “ghetto palm” or “junk yard dog tree” - which should give you some idea of its cultural and botanical appreciation. In 1974, artist Isamu Noguchi purchased a disused New York gas station with the intention to turn it into a studio and living space. A single tree stood among garbage and debris on the lot. A 60ft Tree of Heaven. This tree grows where others will or can not - even in the polluted soil of an inner city auto repair shop. Noguchi must have admired the tree's tenacity and spirit because he chose to keep it. In fact he not only chose to keep it, he designed an entire sculpture garden around it. It became the centrepiece of his new home. The tree's shade provided a place under which his staff would eat their lunch and Noguchi himself could enjoy quiet reflection. Three years after his death, in 1988, Noguchi’s studio was opened to the public as a museum dedicated to his work. The tree stood. Twenty years later, in 2008, rot was discovered in the tree - perhaps due to the slow inundation of groundwater from the East River which had also damaged the site. The tree was dying and threatened to collapse on the building, which had just undergone a multi-million dollar restoration. Sadly, it had to come down. When it was removed its rings revealed it to be 75 years old. The wood was sent to the Detroit Tree of Heaven Woodshop, an artists collective who work exclusively with the genus. From the wood they made a collection of furniture which now sits throughout the museum. The tree is gone for now, but perhaps not forever. Notoriously hard to kill, this species will often send out suckers years later and regrow. Shortly after the felling, gallery director Jenny Dixon had this to say: “The ailanthus is well known for regenerating from its roots. If it revives, the original could be here again".