To study whether differential responses occur in photosynthesis and antioxidant system for seedlings of Liquidambar formosana, an acid rain (AR)-sensitive tree species and Schima superba, an AR-tolerant tree species treated with three types of pH 3.0 simulated AR (SiAR) including sulfuric-rich (S-SiAR), nitric-rich (N-SiAR), sulfate and nitrate mixed (SN-SiAR), we investigated the changes of leaf necrosis, chlorophyll content, soluble protein and proline content, photosynthesis and chlorophyll fluorescence characteristics, reactive oxygen species production, membrane lipid peroxidation, small molecular antioxidant content, antioxidant enzyme activities and related protein expressions. Our results showed that SiAR significantly caused leaf necrosis, inhibited photosynthesis, induced superoxide radical and hydrogen peroxide generation, aggravated membrane lipid peroxidation, changed antioxidant enzyme activities, modified related protein expressions such as Cu/Zn superoxide dismutase (SOD), l-ascorbate peroxidase (APX, EC 1. 11. 1. 11), glutathione S transferase (GST, EC 2. 5. 1. 18) and Rubisco large subunit (RuBISCO LSU), altered non-protein thiols (NPT) and glutathione (GSH) content in leaves of L. formosana and S. superba. Taken together, we concluded that the damages caused by SiAR in L. formosana were more severe and suffered from more negative impacts than in S. superba. S-SiAR induced more serious damages for the plants than did SN-SiAR and N-SiAR.