Tree of Heaven vs Sumac | Which is better for you?

Tree of Heaven(Ailanthus altissima) 

The tree of heaven is commonly known as ailanthus, a varnish tree. It is a deciduous tree in the family of Simaroubaceae. A native of China and Taiwan. But it is spread all over the world. Its lifespan is only about 50 to 100 years.

Ailanthus (i.e. sky-tree) is called the tree “Tree of Heaven” because it grows towards the sky very quickly.

Sumac (Rhus spp. (Rhus typhina)

Sumac is also known as Staghorn Sumac. It is growing in subtropical and temperate regions throughout the world. It is a medium-sized tree that has been mainly used to make medicine.

Sumac berries taste great as a spice rub for lamb, fish, and chicken. The berries are also used as a salad.

#Tree of Heaven Sumac 
Scientific Name: Ailanthus altissimaRhus spp. (Rhus typhina)
Tree Size: 65-100 ft (20-30 m) tall30-40 ft (10-12 m) tall
trunk diameter:2-3 ft (.6-1 m)6-12 in (15-30 cm)
Average Dried Weight: 37.1 lbs/ft3 (600  kg/m3)33 lbs/ft3 (530 kg/m3)
Janka Hardness: 1,420 lbf (6,300 N)680 lbf (3,030 N)
Wood Color:Pale yellow to light brownYellow to olive-green
Workability:Easy to workEasy to work
Uses:Cabinets, turned objects, and paper (pulpwood).Small specialty items, carving, turned objects, and inlay.

Tree of Heaven vs Sumac

Tree of Heaven 

As an Ornamental Tree: It is an easy and fast-growing tree. It has been used as a shady tree in parks and gardens.

Cabinet work: Ailanthus is a dense and strong wood. It is most commonly used for making cabinets.

Paper(Pulpwood): It is considered suitable for making quality paper production.

Other Uses: The dark yellowish wood is commonly used to make rich cabinetry, small bends, and decorative items.


As food: Sumac berries taste great as a spice rub for lamb, fish, and chicken. Its red berries are also used on the float of salad.

In Medicine: Native Americans used sumac to treat colds, sore throats, fevers, contagion, diarrhea, dysentery, and scurvy. 

Small Objects: Sumac’s workability is quite good. So it is considered better for making small specialty items, carving, turning objects, and inlay.

Which one has better workability?

Tree of Heaven(Ailanthus) and Sumac both have good workability properties. Easy to work with hand and machine tools. Sumac has fuzzy surfaces that need to be cleaned up with sanding. But Turns, glues, stains, and finishes well.

The hardness and weight of Ailanthus wood are more than Sumac. That’s why dealing with Ailanthus can sometimes be difficult. But overall good.

Color/Appearance and Grain Pattern

Tree of heavenSumac
Its sapwood (the outer part of the stem) is yellow to light brown and the heartwood (the inner part of the stem) is brighter yellowish or olive-hued.
The Tree of Heaven Has an open porous texture. So that it absorbs the water quickly. Not suitable for outdoor uses.
Sapwood is grayish-white and the heartwood is consistently yellow to olive-green coloration.
The grain of sumac is straight and interlocked. It has a natural luster.

Tree of Heaven vs Sumac Tree Identification

Tree of Heaven Tree Identification Sumac Tree Identification
Tree:  The tree of heaven grows rapidly and is reaching heights of 50 to 60 ft in 25 years. The trunk diameter is about 2-3 ft.
Bark: The bark of a young tree is smooth and the mature tree has light brown with slightly irregular vertical stripes.
Leaves: The tree of heaven leaves has a central stem, called a rachis in which leaflets are attached on each side. Its leaves can be up to 1 to 4 feet long. Each leaf has 10 to 40 leaflets.
Leaves Color: The upperparts are dark green with light green veins and the undersides of the leaves are light green.
Fruit: The fruits of the tree of heaven are different from typical fruit. It has winged fruits that are green in the beginning and turn yellow to pinkish or orange, and finally red.
The fruit is in the bunch, which hangs down from the tree.
Tree: It can reach a height of 30-40 ft (10-12 m). It grows about 24 inches (2 ft) per year. The trunk diameter is about 1/2-1 ft.
Bark: The bark of a young tree is smooth and Mature bark is dark gray or gray-brown, with horizontal stripes (lenticels.) 
Leaves: The green leaves are shaped like pointy, tapered ovals. A central stem in which leaflets are attached to each side. Its leaves can be up to 1 to 2 feet long. Each leaf has 3 to 31 leaflets.
Leaves Color: Medium green, orange to red autumn color.
Fruit: The fruits of sumac are commonly called berries. Edible berries are bright red and their berries grow in densely clustered spikes.
It is about 1/8 inch in diameter. which hangs down from the tree.

Tree of Heaven vs Sumac leaves

Tree of heaven

Tree of Heaven leaves
Tree of Heaven leaves

Sumac leaves

Sumac leaves
Sumac leaves

Tree of Heaven vs Sumac Fruit

Sumac Berries

edible sumac berries
Edible Sumac Berries

Tree of Heaven Fruit

tree of heaven fruit
Tree of Heaven Fruit

How to Identify Poison Sumac?

It can be easily recognized by berries, leaves, and twigs. 

Poison SumacPoison sumac berries are usually whitePoison sumac shrubs have smooth margins,Twigs are smooth
Edible SumacWhereas edible sumac berries are bright redwhereas nonpoisonous sumac plants have serrated margins. Twigs are hairy

So both the trees are useful on the basis of their usefulness. One species of sumac is poisonous that you should avoid using.