One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve


Your mystery this week is a bit tricky, so we’ve decided to offer a hint: It’s not a native, though it commonly grows along roadways and fields.

Mystery #81

Give me your guesses and I’ll be back with your answer later.


We had a guess of Sumac, but not Tree of Heaven. Sumac is a native tree, so this is the Chinese invasive, Tree of Heaven, Ailanthus altissima. These compound leaves with their pointed tips are near copies of the Sumac, but this tree spreads by sucker roots and sprouts again when cut. This vigor leads to huge trees, up to 90 feet tall, while the slender sumac only reaches 30 feet high.

Tree of Heaven, Ailanthus altissima

If you humans are doing some fall color watching from your cars, we think the Tree of Heaven has the brighter fall leaves, while the sumac’s leaves tend to be a deeper red.

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