Skip Navigation

Species Search:
FieldGuidesthreatened and/or endangered search resultsthreatened and/or endangered

previous  | next

Staghorn Sumac Rhus typhina (Rhus hirta)


enlarge +

Staghorn Sumac
credit: Sten Porse/CCSA

All Images


Get Our Newsletters


Advanced Search

Family: Anacardiaceae, Cashew view all from this family

Description The Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina, synonym: R. hirta) is a deciduous shrub to small tree in the Anacardiaceae or Cashew family, native to eastern North America. It is primarily found in Southeastern Canada, the Northeastern and Midwestern United States, Southern Ontario, and the Appalachian Mountains.

It grows to 3–10 m tall, and has alternate, pinnately compound leaves 25–55 cm long, each with 9–31 serrate leaflets 6–11 cm long. The leaf petioles and the stems are densely covered in rust-colored hairs.

Staghorn sumac is dioecious, and large clumps can form with either male or female plants. The fruit of staghorn sumac is one of the most identifiable characteristics, forming dense clusters of small red drupes at the terminal end of the branches; the clusters are conic, 10-20 cm long and 4-6 cm broad at the base. The plant flowers from May to July and fruit ripens from June to September. The foliage turns a brilliant red in autumn. The fruit has been known to last through winter and into spring.

Staghorn sumac spreads using its seeds, and by spreading rhizomes. This makes it so the tree forms colonies, with the oldest plants in the center, and the younger plants radiating out. It grows quite aggressively. Staghorn sumac grows in gardens, lawns, the edges of forests, and wasteland. It can grow under a wide array of conditions, but is most often found in dry and poor soil on which other plants cannot survive.

Habitat Fields, Grasslands & prairies.

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

Comments Staghorn sumac is most effective when drifts or colonies, typical of natural settings, are allowed to establish. Colonies can be rejuvenated every few years by cutting them to the ground in mid-winter. Sumacs grow in dry waste areas, such as impossible slopes where even juniper struggle. They are fast growing, generally pest and disease-free, and drought-tolerant. Thin bark makes sumac especially sensitive to lawn mowers and string trimmers. Wounding, however, triggers development of replacement sprouts. Colonies are often single-sexed, formed from a single, suckering parent. Only female plants produce flowers and berries. The berries are winter food for many upland gamebirds, songbirds, and large and small mammals.

Exposure Preference Sun.

Flower June - July

Native Distribution E. Quebec to Minnesota, s. to n. South Carolina, Alabama, Illinois & Iowa

Site Preference Dry uplands; old fields; hardwood forest edges

Soil Preference Dry, rocky or gravelly soils. pH 6.1-7.

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