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

 Native Plant Database

Rhus glabra

Smooth sumac

Anacardiaceae (Sumac Family)

Rhus glabra (Smooth sumac)
Loughmiller, Campbell and Lynn
The colony-forming smooth sumac is a 10-20 ft. shrub with short, crooked, leaning trunks and picturesque branches. The pinnately compound leaves are alternate, with 1330 sharp-toothed leaflets on each side of the midrib. Deciduous leaves become extremely colorful in early fall. On female plants, yellow-green flowers are followed by bright-red, hairy berries in erect, pyramidal clusters which persist throughout winter.

The only shrub or tree species native to all 48 contiguous states.

Image Gallery:

34 photo(s) available

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Shrub
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Leaf Arrangement: Alternate
Leaf Complexity: Pinnate
Leaf Shape: Lanceolate
Leaf Venation: Pinnate
Leaf Margin: Serrate
Breeding System: Flowers Unisexual , Dioecious
Size Notes: Shrub or small tree to 10 feet.
Leaf: Green
Autumn Foliage: yes
Fruit: Red, Brown 1/8 inch
Size Class: 6-12 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White , Yellow , Green , Brown
Bloom Time: May , Jun , Jul , Aug


USA: AL , AZ , AR , CA , CO , CT , DE , FL , GA , ID , IL , IN , IA , KS , KY , LA , ME , MD , MA , MI , MN , MS , MO , MT , NE , NV , NH , NJ , NM , NY , NC , ND , OH , OK , OR , PA , RI , SC , SD , TN , TX , UT , VT , VA , WA , WV , WI , WY , DC
Canada: AB , BC , MB , NB , NS , ON , PE , QC , SK
Native Distribution: Across most of Canada except the far north and almost all of the US, south into Tamaulipas in northeastern Mexico
Native Habitat: Roadsides; fields; wood borders; waste places

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry
Soil pH: Circumneutral (pH 6.8-7.2)
CaCO3 Tolerance: Low
Cold Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Most dry soils. Sandy, Sandy Loam Medium Loam, Clay Loam, Clay, Caliche type
Conditions Comments: This is the dominant sumac of blackland prairies. Plants of Rocky Mountain origin are usually separated into the variety cismontana. This dwarf variety is becoming popular in cultivation. In a planned landscape, the species is most effective when drifts or colonies, typical of natural settings, are allowed to establish. Colonies can be rejuvenated every few years by cutting them to the ground in mid-winter. Sumacs will grow in dry waste areas, such as impossible slopes where even junipers struggle. They are 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: The seeds remain firmly attached for a long time without noticeable deterioration and are often used in large decorative arrangements.
Use Wildlife: Consumed by birds of many kinds and small mammals, mainly in winter. Deer browse the twigs and fruit throughout the year.
Use Food: Raw young sprouts were eaten by the Indians as salad. The sour fruit, mostly seed, can be chewed to quench thirst or prepared as a drink similar to lemonade.
Use Medicinal: Boiled fruit as a remedy for pianful menstruation and blood diarrhea. Diuretic. Roots and berries steeped to make wash for sores. Internal as a tea and externally as a wash for female complaints. (Kindscher)
Use Other: Roots make yellow dye. Mixed with tobacco to smoke. (Kindscher)
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Attracts: Birds , Butterflies
Larval Host: Hairstreak butterfly

Last Update: 2013-09-07