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© Charlie Hohn

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collage of Tree of Heaven and Staghorn Sumac

Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima) vs. Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina)

Updated September 23rd, 2021

These trees are sometimes confused because of similar compound leaf shape and occurrence in the same disturbed habitats, such as along roadsides and railroads. Both tend to form colonies with multiple trunks attached to a single root system. They can be easily distinguished at any time of year by leaves, twigs, bark, and fruit. Although their ranges and habitat overlap considerably, tree of heaven ranges farther west and is more common in cities and anthropogenic habitats, whereas staghorn sumac ranges farther north and is more common in natural areas farther from human influence.

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