Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - The University of Texas at Austin information

 Native Plant Database

Rhus aromatica

Fragrant sumac, Aromatic sumac, Lemon sumac, Polecat bush

Anacardiaceae (Sumac Family)

Rhus aromatica (Fragrant sumac)
Lytle, Melody
Fragrant sumac is an irregular, spreading, deciduous shrub, 6-12 ft. tall, with velvety twigs and lower branches turned up at the tips. Glossy, somewhat blue-green, coarsely toothed, trifoliate leaves turn orange, red, purple and yellow in the fall. Yellowish catkin-like flowers precede dark-red berries which persist into March. A sprawling, small to medium-size shrub with aromatic foliage.

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Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Shrub
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Leaf Arrangement: Alternate
Leaf Complexity: Trifoliate
Size Notes: Height 5-12 feet and 4 to 6 wide.
Autumn Foliage: yes
Fruit: Red
Size Class: 6-12 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Yellow
Bloom Time: Apr , May , Jun


USA: AL , AR , CT , FL , GA , IL , IN , IA , KS , KY , LA , MD , MA , MI , MN , MS , MO , NE , NH , NJ , NY , NC , OH , OK , PA , SC , SD , TN , TX , VT , VA , WV , WI , DC
Canada: MB , ON , QC
Native Distribution: W. Que. to n. MI & IL, s. to GA, LA & KS, west to California and southern Oregon, south to Guerrero in west-central Mexico
Native Habitat: Dry, rocky prairies, old fields & open woods

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist , Dry
Soil pH: Circumneutral (pH 6.8-7.2)
Cold Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Dry, rocky soils. Sandy, Sandy Loam, Medium Loam, Clay Loam Clay, Rocky, Caliche type, Limestone-based
Conditions Comments: In spring, fragrant sumac flowers appear before the foliage. This shrub turns fall colors of red, yellow and orange. The flower is a nectar source for adult butterflies. Fragrant sumac colonizes to form thickets and looks best when planted en mass or in drift-like plantings as it occurs in nature. It is fast growing, generally pest and disease-free, and drought-tolerant. Colonies are often single-sexed, formed from a single, suckering parent. Only female plants produce flowers and berries.


Use Ornamental: Several cultivated varieties of this shrub are available. Aromatic, Attractive, Fall conspicuous
Use Wildlife: The berries are winter food. Its berries provide food for small animals and birds such as Townsends Solitaires.
Use Food: Its berries provide food for small animals and birds such as Townsends Solitaires.
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Interesting Foliage: yes
Fragrant Foliage: yes
Attracts: Birds , Butterflies
Larval Host: Red-banded hairstreak butterfly
Deer Resistant: High

Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)

Rhus aromatica is a larval host and/or nectar source for:
Banded Hairstreak
(Satyrium calanus)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA
Red-banded Hairstreak
(Calycopis cecrops)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA

Last Update: 2012-12-09