Plant Guide > Trees > Paradise Tree and Ailanthus > Quassia or Paradise Tree

Quassia or Paradise Tree

Quassia or Paradise TreeThe Quassia, or Paradise Tree (Simaruba glauca, DC.) is the nearest American relative of the ailanthus tree, which is no stranger to inhabitants of the Eastern States. It grows in lower Florida and in the West Indies-a low, round-headed tree whose graceful, pinnate leaves are dark red when they first appear, soon becoming dark green and shining above, and pale beneath.

For weeks in spring the immense loose clusters of tiny yellow flowers spread like a delicate veil over the treetop. Staminate and pistillate trees both bear panicles often 2 feet across.

In the autumn the fertile tree burns bright with the scarlet fruit, which are full grown as early as the end of April. These remain all summer, turning purple, and falling in autumn. They are as large as wild plums.

This is one of the most beautiful trees in tropical gardens, as its name implies. A related species in the islands of the Caribbean Sea yields a tonic drug, quassin, used in the treatment of malaria. The Florida tree has bitter sap, and it is popularly believed that to drink water from a cup made of its wood is a cure for chills and fever.