Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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

Native North American bulbs
August 19, 2011 - I saw your list of 4 lilies native to the Northeastern United States, which was very helpful. What other bulbs are native to North America? Although I garden in Connecticut, I am interested in learn...
view the full question and answer

Percentage of worlds flowers of each color
July 14, 2007 - What percentage of the world's flowers are blue? red? white? yellow?
view the full question and answer

Differences in Plant Growth
November 28, 2010 - How do plants grow differently?
view the full question and answer

Grafting stone fruit
April 02, 2009 - Do you know of anyone grafting the new low chill stone fruit trees to the Mexican plum to minimize cotton rot? Or would it even work?
view the full question and answer

How to distinguish male and female grape vines in Gage OK.
August 19, 2012 - Are there male and female plants for wild grapes? If so, how do we tell the difference?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

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