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Rhus trilobata (Skunkbush)
Nugent, Louis R

Rhus trilobata

Rhus trilobata Nutt.

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

Anacardiaceae (Sumac Family)



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

This is a widespread, variable species, consisting of several varieties throughout its range. It is a low, spreading, much-branched deciduous shrub, often 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 fruit. Fall foliage is colorful.


From the Image Gallery

1 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Shrub
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Leaf Arrangement: Alternate
Leaf Complexity: Trifoliate
Leaf Margin: Lobed , Serrate
Fruit Type: Drupe
Size Notes: Up to about 10 feet tall, often much shorter.
Leaf: Green.
Autumn Foliage: yes
Fruit: Orange-red, 1/4 inch.

Bloom Information

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


USA: AR , AZ , CA , CO , ID , KS , MD , MT , ND , NE , NM , NV , 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


Description: To propagate, use treated seeds, root cuttings, layerings, late spring or early summer softwood cuttings, or separate suckers from parent plants.
Seed Collection: Pick fruit clusters when ripe. The dried clusters can be broken into individual fruits by rubbing or beating in sacks. Seeds may be cleaned before storage or dried with pulp on. Store in sealed, refrigerated containers.
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
Texas Discovery Gardens - Dallas, TX
Sibley Nature Center - Midland, TX
Texas Master Naturalists - Lost Pines Chapter - Bastrop, TX
Native Seed Network - Corvallis, OR

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

Additional resources

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


Record Modified: 2023-02-24
Research By: TWC Staff

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