Print This Page

Sumac - Organic Answers Column - May 8, 2024

Sumac - Native


SUMAC, AROMATIC  Skunk Bush, Fragrant Sumac

Rhus aromatica (RUSE err-o-MAT-eh-kuh)

Deciduous Sun to part shade   Height 4′–6′   Spread 5′–7′   Spacing 3′–4

HABIT: Leaves have three leaflets which are fragrant when crushed. Plant will sucker and spread but usually not a problem. Yellow flowers in early spring followed by red berries. Red-orange fall color. Can grow as high as 12′.

CULTURE: Grows in any soil that has good drainage, even in rock. Fibrous roots, easy to transplant.

USES: Naturalizing an area. Attracts birds.


NOTES: Also called skunkbush and fragrant sumac. A good place to see this and other natives is the nature trail at Mountain View College. ‘Gro-Low’ is a compact form. ‘Green Glove’ is a larger cultivar. Native eastern USA to Texas.



Rhus virens (RUSE VIE-rens)

Evergreen  Sun   Height 7′   Spread 7′   Spacing 3′–4′

HABIT: Bushy growth. Rounded leaves do not look like other sumacs. Red berries in summer. Reddish-purple fall color.

CULTURE: Drought tolerant and carefree. Over watering is sure to kill.

USES: Specimen, mass planting, natural areas.

PROBLEMS: Few if any.

NOTES: Native to Central Texas. Deer love this plant.


SUMAC, FLAMELEAF Shining Sumac, Winged Sumac

Rhus copallina (RUSE ko-pal-LINE-ah)

Deciduous  Sun   Height 15′   Spread 15′   Spacing 5′–10′

HABIT: Small, open-growing tree. Leafy wings along stems. Brilliant red fall color. Seed clusters in winter. Spreads by suckers.

CULTURE: Easy, any soil. Can be bare-rooted and likes little water.

USES: Specimen garden tree or background mass.

PROBLEMS: None except over-watering, which is sure to kill.

NOTES: Also called shining sumac because the top of the leaf is dark green and shiny above and hairy below. Prairie flameleaf sumac is R. lanceolata.



Rhus glabra (RUSE GLA-bra)

Deciduous Sun to part shade   Height 10′   Spread 10′   Spacing 4′–8′

HABIT: Thick stems with foliage at ends, spreads by suckers out from the mother plant. Excellent orange to red fall color. Vertical flowers and fruit which matures by fall and remains on bare stems through the winter.

CULTURE: Unbelievably durable and widely adaptable. Can be transplanted easily—even bare root. Can take more water than the other sumacs.

USES: Background, mass, natural areas, fall color.

PROBLEMS: Spreads.

NOTES: 'Lancinata' is a cut-leaf cultivar that is almost fern-like. Has the reputation of being poisonous – but it isn't.


  Prairie flameleaf sumac






  Search Library Topics      Search Newspaper Columns