The ailanthus tree at the end of rue Amelot stretches up to the level of the fifth floor windows. Now that most of its leaves have fallen, you can see how the branches have been pruned, or pollarded, many times over the years, to keep the tree within bounds.  From some angles it seems to be growing out of the bistro roof.  Whoever thought of planting a tree there?


The ailanthus is rooted in the corner of a tiny, fenced yard, behind a low, stone wall.  It looks as though the tree was there before the bistro and was protected as the building grew round it.


The bistro, Le Centenaire, was opened in 1889. (It was named to mark the centenary of the French Revolution).   Surely this skinny ailanthus tree isn’t that old?

le centenaire 2

But maybe it is.  Here’s the view around 1905, with a familiar pattern of branches stretching above the bistro roof, just as far as the first floor windows.  Which came first?

Ailanthus trees self seed readily.  The seeds are carried on the wind and the species is well known for springing up in unpromising locations.  It seems unlikely that this tree was planted so close to the building behind it, more likely that it was self sown.  It also seems unlikely that a chance seedling would be protected and carefully pruned for over a century, as it grew to dominate a tiny yard and to shade more windows every year.  But unlikely things happen.

There’s a new ailanthus seedling, just coming up at the base of the magnolia tree to the right of the gateway.  I wonder if anyone’s noticed it yet.