Effects of location on gender expression and size of the Tree of Heaven, Ailanthus altissima
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Invasive species can be either beneficial or detrimental to a native environment. Since there are no natural predators, there is less inhibiting the invasive species from increasing the population exponentially. Understanding the sexual expression of the invasive species can lead to great developments in hindering the effect on the natural environment. This field study was conducted to observe the sexual expression of the invasive species Ailanthus altissima, common name Tree of Heaven, and relate that to size, neighborhood density, and location, either urban or rural. A total of 57 trees were sampled and their flowers were examined under the microscope to determine the sexual expression. Previous literature suggests that A. altissima exhibits a polygamodioecious sexual expression. To determine this, the gender was recorded from all the flowers sampled, as well as the size, in the form of basal diameter, and the location and the rough neighborhood density. These were then compared against each other, in ANOVA tests, t-tests and chi square tests via SPSS, to determine if there were any patterns formed in nature between any of the measured characteristics. We showed that in Western Michigan there is an androdioecious sexual expression. We also found that there were significant differences in gender between larger and smaller trees, and also between the different locations (rural and urban). We found that the gender ratio between rural and urban environments were significantly different.