Rhus trilobata Nutt.
Skunkbush, Skunkbush Sumac, Fragrant Sumac, Aromatic Sumac, Scented Sumac, Ill-scented Sumac, Basketbush, Squawbush
Anacardiaceae (Sumac Family)
USDA Symbol: rhtr
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
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial
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.
Autumn Foliage: yes
Fruit: Orange-red, 1/4 inch.
Bloom InformationBloom Color: White , Yellow
Bloom Time: Mar , Apr , May , Jun
DistributionUSA: AR , AZ , CA , CO , ID , KS , MD , MT , ND , NE , NM , NV , OK , OR , SD , TX , UT , WY
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 ConditionsWater 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.
BenefitUse Wildlife: Food and habitat for many upland gamebirds, songbirds, and large and small mammals.
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Fragrant Foliage: yes
Value to Beneficial InsectsSpecial Value to Native Bees
Provides Nesting Materials/Structure for Native Bees
This information was provided by the Pollinator Program at The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.
PropagationDescription: 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 DirectoryAccording 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
BibliographyBibref 946 - Gardening with Prairie Plants: How to Create Beautiful Native Landscapes (2002) Wasowski, Sally
Bibref 318 - Native Texas Plants: Landscaping Region by Region (2002) Wasowski, S. & A. Wasowski
Search More Titles in Bibliography
Web ReferenceWebref 30 - Calflora (2018) Calflora
Webref 37 - Calscape (2019) California Native Plant Society
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter
Additional resourcesUSDA: Find Rhus trilobata in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Rhus trilobata in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Rhus trilobata
MetadataRecord Modified: 2023-02-24
Research By: TWC Staff