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 General Botany Questions

Dyes from native North American plants
November 29, 2012 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I have been working as a textile designer for many years and am now interested in harvesting native North American plants in order to create natural dyes. Which plant ...
view the full question and answer

Allelopathy in Sassafras albidum
January 11, 2012 - Sassafras albidum description says "Sassafras is allelopathic and can discourage the growth of certain other plants within its root zone." My question is: WHICH plants are susce...
view the full question and answer

Burn the wetlands
June 02, 2010 - Can the wetlands of Louisiana that have been soaked in oil be burned? I am a native plant gardener in the midwest. Burning is a natural process in the prairie. Southerners are not used to this and ma...
view the full question and answer

Leaf motion in still air in ON
June 25, 2012 - What causes a tree or plant to dance when the other plants around it are still and no wind???
view the full question and answer

USDA Hardiness Zone of Rancho Bernardo, CA
October 01, 2009 - What plant zone is Poway, Rancho Bernardo CA?
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
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center