Tree of Heaven vs. Sumac: How can you tell the difference?

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Staghorn Sumac is a native to Ohio and a great naturalizer plant.


sumac 2


Tree of Heaven is an invasive and extremely aggressive in growth and proliferation.


tree of heaven 1


Both Sumac and Tree of Heaven are in flower in northeast Ohio, which in fact is one of the best ways to tell them apart.


rhus ailanthis


Staghorn Sumac - Rhus typhina is an attractive wood line plant with attractive fruits


sumac fruit


and a good orange fall color. The fruit is fuzzy, starts green,


suman green flower


and turns to red. The leaves on sumac are toothed and pinnately compound. 


sumac leaf


The bud is surrounded by the leaf scar.  




The stems are densely pubescent with a firm white pith.



sumac pith




Tree of Heaven Ailanthis altissima has flower clusters that cascade out and down from the center.


tree of heaven flowers


They tend to be orange to brown.


tree of heaven flower 2


The leaves are pinnately compound but are smooth with no teeth.


tree of heaven leaf


The buds are small and sit above a large heart-shaped leaf scar. 


tree of heaven bud


The stems have a brown spongy pith.


tree of heaven pith


Both plants can grow together and may be difficult to tell apart. However, the flowers can really help if you want to keep (Sumac)


sumac 3


or pitch (Tree of Heaven).


tree of heaven 4