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NPIN: Native Plant Database

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Rhus glabra (Smooth sumac)
Loughmiller, Campbell and Lynn

Rhus glabra

Rhus glabra L.

Smooth sumac

Anacardiaceae (Sumac Family)

Synonym(s): Rhus borealis, Rhus calophylla, Rhus glabra var. cismontana, Rhus glabra var. laciniata, Rhus glabra var. occidentalis

USDA Symbol: Rhgl

USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)

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 13–30 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.

 

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

Distribution

USA: AL , AR , AZ , CA , CO , CT , DC , DE , FL , GA , IA , ID , IL , IN , KS , KY , LA , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , MO , MS , MT , NC , ND , NE , NH , NJ , NM , NV , NY , OH , OK , OR , PA , RI , SC , SD , TN , TX , UT , VA , VT , WA , WI , WV , WY
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.

Benefit

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

Value to Beneficial Insects

Special Value to Native Bees
Special Value to Honey Bees
Provides Nesting Materials/Structure for Native Bees
Supports Conservation Biological Control

This information was provided by the Pollinator Program at The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.

Propagation

Propagation Material: Seeds
Description: Plant scarified and stratified seed 1/3-3/4 in. deep. Sumac is most commonly propagated by early winter root division. Place root cuttings in flats of moist sand.
Seed Treatment: Acid scarify one to three hours, then stratify immediately for 30 days at 41 degrees.
Commercially Avail: yes

Find Seed or Plants

Find seed sources for this species at the Native Seed Network.

View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.

Mr. Smarty Plants says

Plant identfication
October 21, 2009
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From the National Suppliers Directory

According to the inventory provided by Associate Suppliers, this plant is available at the following locations:

Edge of the Woods Native Plant Nursery - Orefield, PA
American Native Nursery - Quakertown, PA

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Pineywoods Native Plant Center - Nacogdoches, TX
Delaware Nature Society - Hockessin, DE
Stengl Biological Research Station - Smithville, TX
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department - Austin, TX
Native Seed Network - Corvallis, OR

Bibliography

Bibref 610 - Edible wild plants of the prairie : an ethnobotanical guide (1987) Kindscher, K.
Bibref 1620 - Gardening with Native Plants of the South (Reprint Edition) (2009) Wasowski, S. with A. Wasowski
Bibref 946 - Gardening with Prairie Plants: How to Create Beautiful Native Landscapes (2002) Wasowski, Sally
Bibref 355 - Landscaping with Native Plants of Texas and the Southwest (1991) Miller, G. O.
Bibref 841 - Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants (2006) Burrell, C. C.
Bibref 318 - Native Texas Plants: Landscaping Region by Region (2002) Wasowski, S. & A. Wasowski
Bibref 248 - Texas Wildflowers: A Field Guide (1984) Loughmiller, C. & L. Loughmiller
Bibref 291 - Texas Wildscapes: Gardening for Wildlife (1999) Damude, N. & K.C. Bender
Bibref 297 - Trees of Central Texas (1984) Vines, Robert A.

Search More Titles in Bibliography

From the Archive

Wildflower Newsletter 1985 VOL. 2, NO.3 - Greenhouse Assists Research, Wild color on the Hills, Director's Report, Clearin...
Wildflower Newsletter 1990 VOL. 7, NO.1 - Congress Eyes Larger Issue, Research Update, Director's Report, Carlton B. Lees ...

Additional resources

USDA: Find Rhus glabra in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Rhus glabra in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Rhus glabra

Metadata

Record Modified: 2013-09-07
Research By: TWC Staff

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