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

 Native Plant Database

Rhus lanceolata

Prairie flameleaf sumac, Flameleaf sumac, Prairie sumac, Lance-leaf sumac, Lance-leaved sumac, Texas sumac, Tree sumac, Limestone sumac, Prairie shining sumac

Anacardiaceae (Sumac Family)

Rhus lanceolata (Prairie flameleaf sumac)
Marcus, Joseph A.
Prairie Flameleaf Sumac is a thicket-forming, small, deciduous tree to 30 ft. in height, but usually no taller than 20 ft. Pyramidal panicles of red, fall fruit follow white, summer blossoms. Pinnately-compound foliage becomes vivid red or orange in fall.

Native from southern Oklahoma through north, central, and west Texas to New Mexico and south to Puebla in central Mexico, the limestone-loving Prairie Flameleaf Sumac is relatively fast growing, generally pest- and disease-free, and heat-, cold-, and drought-tolerant. Flameleaf is a perfect description of this trees outstanding, orange and red, autumn foliage, but its pale trunk and branches, green summer leaves, and pyramidal clusters of red fall fruit are also noteworthy. Though it may sucker from the base to form a colony, it is not as likely to aggressively colonize as the more easterly Shining Sumac (Rhus copallinum). Like the very different-looking Evergreen Sumac (Rhus virens), Prairie Flameleaf Sumac produces berries that, when soaked in water, make a tart, tasty, high-Vitamin C tea.

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Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Tree
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Leaf Arrangement: Alternate
Leaf Complexity: Pinnate
Leaf Shape: Lanceolate
Leaf Venation: Pinnate
Leaf Pubescence: Glabrous , Pilose
Leaf Margin: Entire
Breeding System: Flowers Unisexual , Monoecious
Inflorescence: Panicle
Size Notes: 12-30 ft, but normally around 15-20 ft.
Leaf: Shiny green above, pale below.
Autumn Foliage: yes
Flower: Panicles 4-6 inches long
Fruit: Dark red 1/8 inch long
Size Class: 12-36 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White , Yellow , Green
Bloom Time: Jul , Aug
Bloom Notes: color normally yellowish green or white


Native Distribution: Southern Oklahoma south through north-central, central, and west Texas, west to New Mexico, and south to Puebla
Native Habitat: Rocky, limestone hillsides and grasslands

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low , Medium
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Dry
Soil pH: Alkaline (pH>7.2)
Drought Tolerance: High
Cold Tolerant: yes
Heat Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Rocky, calcareous, well-drained limestone soils, including clays, loams, and sands. Usually in calcareous rocky soils and clays.
Conditions Comments: Will be less likely to sucker and colonize if left undisturbed. Overly rich soil can cause fusarium wilt when the plant is young.


Use Ornamental: Provides accent texture and vivid fall color as well as hardiness and easy maintenance. It is an excellent, relatively fast growing landscaping choice because of its ornamental fruits and fall foliage.
Use Wildlife: Birds, especially bobwhites, grouse, and pheasants, consume quantities of the fruit in winter, and deer browse the foliage.
Use Food: Fruit soaked in water used to make a lemony drink similar to a diluted lemonade, sometimes called sumac-ade.
Use Other: The leaves contain tannin and have been used in tanning leather.
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Interesting Foliage: yes
Attracts: Birds , Butterflies
Larval Host: Red-banded Hairstreak, Banded Hairstreak
Deer Resistant: Moderate

Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)

Rhus lanceolata 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: 2015-12-16