Rhus typhina (Staghorn Sumac)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Genus:Rhus
Family:Anacardiaceae (Sumac)
Life cycle:perennial woody
Origin:native
Habitat:part shade, sun; dry to average moisture; forest edges, clearings, prairies, old fields, along roadsides, railroads, shores
Bloom season:June - July
Plant height:up to 35 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:none
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Cluster type: panicle

[photo of flowers] Pyramidal, branching cluster of short-stalked flowers at the tips of branches, with male and female flowers on separate plants and the clusters of male flowers rather larger than those with female flowers. Flowers are less than ¼ inch across with 5 yellowish to greenish petals. Male flowers are slightly larger than female flowers and have 5 yellow-tipped stamens; female flowers have a 3-parted style in the center. The calyx cupping the flower has 5 pointed lobes about as long as the petals. Flower stalks and the calyx are densely covered in short hairs.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: compound

[photo of leaves] Leaves are alternate, up to 18 inches long, compound with 9 to 27 leaflets. Leaflets are generally lance-oblong, 2¼ to 5 inches long, about 1 inch wide, sharply toothed around the edges, with a short taper to a pointed tip, and rounded at the stalkless base. The upper surface is dark green and hairless or sparsely hairy, the lower is paler in color and hairy, especially along the midvein. Leaf stalks are green to reddish and densely covered in short, fine hairs. Leaves turn bright red in fall.

[photo of twig and branch buds] Twigs are velvety, densely covered in soft hairs, green the first year, turning brown the second, the hairs persisting for several years.

[photo of trunks] Older bark is thin, gray to gray-brown, with scattered, horizontal pores. Trunks are up to 8 inches diameter at breast height (dbh). Stems are single and not heavily branched. Large colonies can be formed from root suckers.

Fruit: Fruit type: berry/drupe

[photo of fruit] The female flower clusters form a tight cluster of round, fuzzy, berry-like drupes, each less than ¼ inch in diameter and containing a single seed. Fruit ripens to deep red and may persist through winter and into the next season.

Notes:

Staghorn Sumac, known in some references by the synonym Rhus hirta, gets its common name from the coarse branches covered with fine hairs that resemble deer antlers in velvet. The hairy branches and fuzzy fruit distinguish it from everything else. A larger shrub than Smooth Sumac (Rhus glabra), it is not as widespread in Minnesota, more associated with our southeast woodlands than the open prairie preferred by Smooth Sumac. Staghorn Sumac also can form large colonies from aggressive root suckers, something too many homeowners have discovered after buying one of the horticultural varieties offered in the garden trade. Like Smooth Sumac, it is not poisonous and the bristly red hair covering on the seed clusters are filled with tart ascorbic acid, that are easily rendered into a sumac-ade drink - just a little sugar required.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Ramsey County. Other photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk.

Comments

Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Maggi S - My yard and the hillsides of Le Sueur
on: 2017-08-03 16:34:36

I've had this growing out back on the 5 acres that I live on, and I purposely planted it on my hillside because I wanted it to spread- can't mow the hill anyway. Le Sueur county sprays everything, this and milkweed included. Is sumac considered an invasive species?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2017-08-04 18:00:59

Maggi, sumac is native. Natives aren't generally considered "invasive", but some require more control measures than others in planted populations. Likewise, the suppression of fire management in natural areas has allowed woody species (like sumac) to run unchecked and encroach on wetlands and prairies.

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