En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Wednesday - January 09, 2013

From: Ingram, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: General Botany, Seeds and Seeding, Trees
Title: Failure of flameleaf sumacs to produce fruit
Answered by: Nan Hampton and Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

Our two flame leaf sumacs produce none to little fruit. Both are about 4 years old, quite large, healthy looking; flowering this year was very good, but no fruit. What keeps them from producing fruit?

ANSWER:

The information in our Native Plant Database on the species page for Rhus lanceolata (Prairie flameleaf sumac) says that it is unisexual and monoecious.   Unisexual means that it has flowers that are strictly female with pistils containing eggs that can grow into seeds if fertilized and it also has separate male flowers with stamens that produce the pollen.  (The alternative, bisexual or perfect flowers, have both the pistils and stamens within the same flower.)  Monoecious means that the two types of flowers, male or female, occur on the same plant.  (The alternative, dioecious, means that the male flowers occur on one plant and the female flowers occur on a separate plant.)  You can see a line drawing of the two types of flowers on p. 235 of Shinners & Mahler's Illustrated Flora of North Central Texas.

Robert Vines in Trees of Central Texas (p. 249-252) says that Rhus copellina has flowers that are "polygamo-dioecious". (Rhus copellina var. lanceolata is a synonym for Rhus lanceolata.)  Vines definition for polygamo-dioecious is:

"Essentially dioecious, but with some flowers of other sex or perfect flowers on the same individual."

So, what all this is attempting to say is that I don't really know for sure why your flameleaf sumacs don't produce more seed. It is possible that your plant doesn't produce many female flowers (and/or perfect flowers if Vines' description of the breeding system is correct) that can make the fruits.  

There are other possibilities as well.  It could also be that:

  • the drought or some other environmental stress has affected seed set;
  • there was a shortage of insect pollinators; 
  • there was insect or disease damage; or
  • the location of the trees is heavily shaded.

Without seeing your trees, it is impossible to say for sure what the reason is for the lack of fruit.

 

 

From the Image Gallery


Prairie flameleaf sumac
Rhus lanceolata

More Trees Questions

Non-native Japanese maple for East Northport NY
August 20, 2013 - I live in NY and I am looking to plant a Japanese maple in front of my house. It would be in front of a window so I'm thinking should I get a dwarf? Or a semi dwarf? I know I want a red color but un...
view the full question and answer

Identification of tree in California
May 02, 2012 - A medium-size tree with shiny green leaves toward the bottom and garnet red ones toward the top of the tree. The leaves are narrow with saw-toothed edges. There are clustered small white flowers with ...
view the full question and answer

Elimination of live oak adventitious sprouts in San Angelo TX
July 28, 2009 - Live oak sprouts. The main tree was removed several years ago and we still have the sprouts coming up in the yard. How do we stop this?
view the full question and answer

Landscaping with native plants in Austin
October 06, 2005 - I'm expanding a flower bed in front of my house and would like to keep it all natives. 1) How do I find out what type of soil I should add? (I live near Hyde Park, Austin and haven't had a soil te...
view the full question and answer

Tag on oak tree in Buda, TX
April 02, 2008 - I found a large oak tree on my property with a tag that has a number on it. Any idea what that means?
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.

Bibliography

Shinners & Mahler's Illustrated Flora of North Central Texas (1999) Diggs, G. M.; B. L. Lipscomb; B. O'Kennon; W. F. Mahler; L. H. Shinners

Trees of Central Texas (1984) Vines, Robert A.

Search More Titles in Bibliography

E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center