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First of all, I play in Adventurers League, so if anyone answers this - please no house rules.

I have a druid character that, for the most part, fights in melee range (up close and very personal). Recently, she received the Staff of the Woodlands which is awesome, but also causes a small problem: she carries a shield, and needs to keep an unoccupied hand to hold her focus and use somatic spells.

According to the PHB, a druidic focus can be a staff that was "drawn whole out of a living tree". Nowhere in the description of the Staff of the Woodlands is its make mentioned; however, it can literally turn into a tree and vice-versa.

Can the Staff of the Woodlands be used as a druidic focus, or do I have to give it or my AC up?

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The Staff of the Woodlands is a druidic focus

As you've pointed out , the PHB gives a few examples of what a druidic focus should be and "a staff drawn whole out of a living tree" is certainty the most applicable option in the list.

Druidic Focus. A druidic focus might be a sprig of mistletoe or holly, a wand or scepter made of yew or another special wood, a staff drawn whole out of a living tree, or a totem object incorporating feathers, fur, bones, and teeth from sacred animals. A druid can use such an object as a spellcasting focus.

However, that list is not an exhaustive list. "A druidic focus might be" one of those things, but it could also be a something else.

Moreover, one of the options for a druidic focus in the Adventuring Gear table (PHB p150) is simply noted as a "Wooden staff". D&D Beyond is organized slightly differently, but that "Wooden staff" is still listed as a druidic focus.

Staff of the Woodlands does not describe how it is made of so one could question whether it has been "drawn whole out of a living tree". However, no one could reasonably claim that this isn't a wooden staff, given its theme and depiction:
enter image description here

Finally, there is precedent for a magic item that functions as a focus, even though that magic item does not explicitly say it is a focus.

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The answer isn't clearly defined in the rules, so there is some DM leeway here, though the precedent leans towards yes. Specifically, Jeremy Crawford has said that a magic missile wand can function as an arcane focus.

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    \$\begingroup\$ A druid focus isn't the same thing as an arcane focus. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Sep 8 '18 at 21:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch No, it isn’t, but it appears to be the closest thing we’ve got. This answer seems clear to me about what information we do or don’t have. “Leans towards yes” is not a very strong statement, after all. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Sep 8 '18 at 22:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ Crawford also states: "Any wand can be used as an arcane focus." That said, it doesn't look like the use of magic items (staffs/wands/rods/etc.) as spellcasting focuses is explicitly addressed anywhere in the rules text. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Sep 9 '18 at 0:05

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