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

 Native Plant Database

Rhus trilobata

Fragrant sumac, Aromatic sumac, Scented sumac, Ill-scented sumac, Skunkbush sumac, Skunkbush, Basketbush, Squawbush

Anacardiaceae (Sumac Family)

Rhus trilobata (Fragrant sumac)
Nugent, Louis R
This is a widespread, variable species, consisting of several varieties throughout its range. It is a low, spreading, much-branched deciduous shrub, usually no more than 3 ft. high but spreading as much as 8 ft. The small, trifoliate leaves and the branches are fuzzy. Flowers are yellowish in clustered spikes and are followed by bright crimson to reddish, sticky berries. Fall foliage is colorful.

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Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Shrub
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Leaf Arrangement: Alternate
Leaf Complexity: Trifoliate
Leaf Margin: Serrate , Lobed
Size Notes: Shrub from 2-8 feet.
Leaf: Green
Autumn Foliage: yes
Fruit: Orange-red. 1/4 inch.
Size Class: 1-3 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White , Yellow
Bloom Time: Mar , Apr


USA: AZ , AR , CA , CO , ID , KS , MD , MT , NE , NV , NM , ND , OK , OR , SD , TX , UT , WY
Canada: AB
Native Distribution: Sask. to WA, east in the US as far as Arkansas, s. to Oaxaca in southern Mex.
Native Habitat: Dry to mesic slopes, thickets, canyons & stream banks

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry
CaCO3 Tolerance: Low
Soil Description: Sandy, gravelly or other well-drained soils.
Conditions Comments: Squawbush is drought tolerant and useful in erosion control because of its suckering habit. Colonies are often single-sexed, formed from a single, suckering parent. Only female plants produce flowers and berries.


Use Wildlife: Food and habitat for many upland gamebirds, songbirds, and large and small mammals.
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Fragrant Foliage: yes

Last Update: 2015-12-14