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Aromatic Sumac Rhus aromatica


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Aromatic Sumac
© Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

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Alternate name: Fragrant Sumac

Family: Anacardiaceae, Cashew view all from this family

Description Irregular, spreading, deciduous shrub. Twigs velvety. Lower branches turned up. Glossy blue-green, coarsely toothed, trifoliate leaves turn orange, red, purple and yellow. Leaves and stems have citrus fragrance when crushed. Yellowish catkin-like flowers in clusters precede dark-red berries which persist into March.

Dimensions Height: .6-4 m. (2-12 ft.).

Habitat Scrub, shrub & brushlands, Grasslands & prairies, Fields.

Range Florida, Southeast, Great Lakes, New England, Plains, Eastern Canada, Texas, Mid-Atlantic.

Discussion Also known as Fragrant Sumac. Hairy red drupes can be brewed into a tea.

Comments Rhus aromatica var. trilobata is treated as Rhus trilobata. Fragrant sumac colonizes to form thickets and looks best when planted en mass or in drift-like plantings as it occurs in nature. It is fast growing, generally pest and disease-free, and drought-tolerant. Colonies are often single-sexed, formed from a single, suckering parent. Only female plants produce flowers and berries.

Exposure Preference Sun.

Flower March - April

Native Distribution W. Quebec to n. Michigan & Illinois, s. to Georgia, Louisiana & Kansas

Site Preference Dry, rocky prairies, old fields & open woods

Soil Preference Dry, rocky soils. pH 6.1-8.5

Wildlife Value The berries are winter food for many upland gamebirds, songbirds, and large and small mammals.