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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Friday - November 22, 2013

From: Dripping Springs, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Plant Identification, Shrubs
Title: Sumac Leaves Turning Red
Answered by: Mike Tomme

QUESTION:

Hi, Mr. Smarty Plants, I recently planted a flowering sumac bush. Is it normal for that plant to get fall leaf-color? About a week after planting it, the temp reached the mid-30s, and after that, I noticed that the leaves were turning red. They haven't dropped, but I'm wondering if the plant was damaged by the cool weather so soon after planting or if this is normal. Thank you!

ANSWER:

Mr. Smarty Plants isn't exactly sure exactly what species you have, but I'm going to assume it's one native to Texas. Otherwise, I have to tell you that we are a resource for information on native plants and we don't answer questions about non-natives - and I don't want to do that.

The Native Plant Information Network database has 13 entries in the genus Rhus which is where the plants commonly referred to as sumacs are classified. Of these, 10 are native to at least some part of Texas.

Now to get to answering your question. The descriptions of most of the natives contain some reference to their foliage changing color in the fall. Sometime the color change is so dramatic that have been given common names like "flameleaf."

So, my guess is that your sumac is doing what so many sumacs do - change color in the fall. Here's a few examples:

 

From the Image Gallery


Winged sumac
Rhus copallinum

Smooth sumac
Rhus glabra

Prairie flameleaf sumac
Rhus lanceolata

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