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Rhus ovata (Sugar sumac)
Wasowski, Sally and Andy

Rhus ovata

Rhus ovata S. Watson

Sugar Sumac, Sugarbush

Anacardiaceae (Sumac Family)

Synonym(s): Rhus ovata var. traskiae


USDA Native Status: L48 (N)

Sugar sumac is an evergreen shrub with large, bright-green, leathery leaves and dense, white flower clusters. Berries are reddish and sticky. Evergreen shrub or small tree with rounded crown.


From the Image Gallery

3 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Shrub
Leaf Retention: Evergreen
Leaf Arrangement: Alternate
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Leaf Shape: Ovate
Leaf Margin: Entire
Leaf Texture: Leathery
Fruit Type: Drupe
Size Notes: Spreading shrub usually up to about 15 feet. May reach up to about 30 feet tall.
Leaf: Shiny green above, pale below.
Fruit: Red. 1/8 inch.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White , Pink
Bloom Time: Feb , Mar , Apr , May


Native Distribution: Baja & s. CA, usually away from coast, to c. AZ
Native Habitat: Slopes; mesas; chaparral; 3000-5000 ft.

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry
CaCO3 Tolerance: Medium
Soil Description: Dry soils.
Conditions Comments: Extremely drought-tolerant. Somewhat fire-proof if given a once/month watering in the summer. Sumac colonies are often single-sexed, formed from a single, suckering parent. Only female plants produce flowers and berries.


Use Ornamental: Sometimes planted for erosion control and landscaping in mountainous areas, this common species is also an attractive ornamental which can be sheared.
Use Wildlife: Food for many upland gamebirds, songbirds, large and small mammals.
Use Food: The edible fruit with thin pulp is sweet and was used as a sweetener by Indians; however, the large seeds are not eaten.
Attracts: Birds


Description: Treated seed and root cuttings are used for increase.
Seed Treatment: Soak in tap water 24 hours and immediately sow the seeds that swell. Boil the rest in water and cool immediately.
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.

From the National Organizations Directory

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

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden - Santa Barbara, CA
Native Seed Network - Corvallis, OR


Bibref 995 - Native Landscaping from El Paso to L.A. (2000) Wasowski, S. and A. Wasowski

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Web Reference

Webref 30 - Calflora (2018) Calflora
Webref 37 - Calscape (2019) California Native Plant Society
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter

From the Archive

Wildflower Newsletter 1984 VOL. 1, NO.4 - Lady Bird Heartened by Progress, Horticultural Society Annual Meeting Held, Dire...

Additional resources

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


Record Modified: 2022-10-20
Research By: TWC Staff

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