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Marcus, Joseph A.
Rhus lanceolata (A. Gray) Britton
Prairie flameleaf sumac, Flame-leaf sumac, Prairie sumac, Lance-leaf sumac
Synonym(s): Rhus copallina var. lanceolata, Rhus copallinum var. lanceolata
USDA Symbol: rhla3
USDA Native Status: L48 (N)
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.
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: 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:
, Monoecious Inflorescence: Panicle Size Notes:
12-30 ft, but normally around 15-20 ft. Leaf:
Shiny green above, pale below. Autumn Foliage:
Panicles 4-6 inches long
Dark red 1/8 inch long Size Class:
Bloom InformationBloom Color: White , Yellow , Green
Bloom Time: Jul , Aug
Bloom Notes: color normally yellowish green or white
, TX 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 ConditionsWater 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.
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:
Birds , Butterflies Larval Host:
Red-banded Hairstreak, Banded Hairstreak Deer Resistant:
Clump Division , Seeds , Semi-hardwood Cuttings Description:
Scarified seed or semi-hardwood cuttings taken in late summer. Several species of Rhus
, this one among them, are commercially available as propagated stock, which is both ecologically more desirable and usually more successfully established than plants dug from the wild. The best time for planting most shrubs and trees is during the dormant period of fall and winter. Even during the winter, however, the root ball needs moisture, so plan some winter watering if soaking rains fail to come regularly. You can use a spade to cut outer shoots from a spreading cluster in the wild. This allows the plant to remain in its natural setting while providing transplantable shoots that already have a developed root system. Simply cut straight down between the outside “sucker” shoots and the other plant and then cut around the new shoots to remove them from the soil. Keep the roots wrapped in damp newspaper and out of the sun. Replant the same day, if possible. Take semi-hardwood cuttings from spring through fall.
Collect September to October from plump, red fruit. Remove pulp from seed. Seed Treatment:
30-55 minutes of acid scarification needed, treat with boiling water, or use rock tumbler to scarify seed. Soaking the seed in water then removing and planting plump seeds is also an option. Commercially Avail:
Because it may colonize, do not plant near an area you dont want it to spread to, like a box hedge border. As with any shrub
or tree, native
or introduced, the first year requires regular deep watering for successful root establishment. Once established, sumacs do not require fertilizing or watering beyond average rainfall. Shrub-like specimens may be pruned to form a nice tree.
Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)
is a larval host and/or nectar source for:
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Herbarium Specimen(s)NPSOT 0260
Collected Aug. 18, 1992 in Comal County by Mary Beth White
Wildflower Center Seed BankLBJWC-63
Collected 2006-11-13 in Travis County by Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Bibref 1186 - Field Guide to Moths of Eastern North America
(2005) Covell, C.V., Jr.
Bibref 1185 - Field Guide to Western Butterflies (Peterson Field Guides)
(1999) Opler, P.A. and A.B. Wright
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 354 - Native & Naturalized Woody Plants of Austin & the Hill Country
(1981) Lynch, D.
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 291 - Texas Wildscapes: Gardening for Wildlife
(1999) Damude, N. & K.C. Bender
Bibref 297 - Trees of Central Texas
(1984) Vines, Robert A.
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Record Last Modified: 2013-08-10
Research By: TWC Staff, GDG