2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Plants

Winged Sumac leaves and flowers
Winged Sumac leaves and flowers
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Sapindales
Family: Anacardiaceae
Genus: Rhus

About 250 species; see text

Rhus is a genus of approximately 250 species of flowering plants in the family Anacardiaceae. They are commonly called sumac or sumach. Some species (including Poison ivy, poison-oak, and poison sumac), often placed in this genus, are here treated in the genus Toxicodendron, which differs in highly allergenic foliage and grayish-white fruit but is not genetically distinct. The name derives from the Greek name for sumac, rhous.

A young branch of Staghorn Sumac.
A young branch of Staghorn Sumac.

The genus is found in subtropical and warm temperate regions throughout the world, with the highest diversity in southern Africa.

They are shrubs and small trees growing to 1-10 m tall. The leaves are spirally arranged; they are usually pinnately compound, though some species have trifoliate or simple leaves. The flowers are in dense panicles or spikes 5-30 cm long, each flower very small, creamy white, greenish or red, with five petals. The fruit form dense clusters of reddish drupes.

Sumac propagates both by seeds, which are spread by birds and other animals through their droppings, and by new sprouts from rhizomes, forming large clonal colonies.


  • Rhus angustifolia L.
  • Rhus batophylla Codd
  • Rhus baurii Schonl.
  • Rhus carnosula Schonl
  • Rhus chirindensis Bak.f.
  • Rhus crenata Thunb.
  • Rhus dentata Thunb.
  • Rhus discolorE.Mey. ex Sond
  • Rhus dracomontana Moffett
  • Rhus dura Schonl.
  • Rhus engleri Britt.
  • Rhus erosa Thunb.
  • Rhus fastigiata Eckl. & Zeyh.
  • Rhus glauca Thunb.
  • Rhus gracillima Schönl.
  • Rhus grandidens Harv. ex Engl.
  • Rhus gueinzii Sond.
  • Rhus harveyi Moffett
  • Rhus incisa L.f.
  • Rhus keetii Schönl.
  • Rhus krebsiana Presl & Engl.
  • Rhus laevigata L.
  • Rhus lancea L.f.
  • Rhus leptodictya Diels
  • Rhus longispina Eckl. & Zeyh.
  • Rhus lucida L.
  • Rhus macowanii Schönl.
  • Rhus magalismontana (R.Fern. & A.Fern.) Moffett
  • Rhus microcarpa Schonl.
  • Rhus marlothii Engl.
  • Rhus montana Diels
  • Rhus natalensis Bernh.
  • Rhus pallens Eckl. & Zeyh.
  • Rhus pendulina Jacq.
  • Rhus pentheri Zahlbr.
  • Rhus pondoensis Schönl.
  • Rhus pygmaea Moffett
  • Rhus pyroides Burch.
  • Rhus quartiniana A. Rich.
  • Rhus rehmanniana Engl.
  • Rhus rigida Mill.
  • Rhus rogersii Moffett
  • Rhus sekhukhuniensis Moffett
  • Rhus tenuinervis Engl.
  • Rhus tomentosa L.
  • Rhus transvaalensis Engl.
  • Rhus tumulicola S.Moore
  • Rhus undulata Jacq.
  • Rhus wilmsii Diels.
  • Rhus zeyheri Sond.
  • Rhus chinensis (Chinese Sumac)
  • Rhus hypoleuca
  • Rhus javanica
  • Rhus punjabensis (Punjab Sumac)
  • Rhus verniciflua: see Toxicodendron vernicifluum
  • Rhus taitensis
Mediterranean region
  • Rhus coriaria (Tanner's Sumac)
  • Rhus pentaphylla
  • Rhus tripartita
Eastern North America
  • Rhus aromatica (Fragrant Sumac)
  • Rhus copallina (Winged Sumac or Shining Sumac)
  • Rhus glabra (Smooth Sumac)
  • Rhus lanceolata (Prairie Sumac)
  • Rhus michauxii (Michaux's Sumac)
  • Rhus typhina (Staghorn Sumac)
  • Rhus toxicodendron: see Toxicodendron radicans
  • Rhus vernix: see Toxicodendron vernix
Western North America
  • Rhus choriophylla (Mearns Sumac), Arizona, New Mexico
  • Rhus laurina (Laurel Sumac)
  • Rhus integrifolia (Lemonade Sumac)
  • Rhus microphylla (Desert Sumac, Littleleaf sumac)
  • Rhus ovata (Sugar Sumac)
  • Rhus trilobata (Skunkbush Sumac)
  • Rhus virens (Evergreen Sumac)
Mexico and Central America
  • Rhus muelleri (Müller's Sumac; northeast Mexico)
Pacific Ocean
  • Rhus sandwicensis A. Gray (Neleau; Hawaii, endemic).
Rhus lancea fruit
Rhus lancea fruit

Cultivation and uses

The hairy covering of the drupes is harvested and used as a spice (a deep red powder with a sour taste) in some Middle Eastern countries, particularly with rice. In North America, the smooth sumac, Rhus glabra, and the staghorn sumac, Rhus typhina, are sometimes used to make a beverage, termed "sumac-ade" or "Indian lemonade" or "rhus juice". This drink is made by soaking the drupes in cool water, rubbing the active principle off the drupes, then straining the liquid through a cotton cloth and sweetening it. Native Americans also used the leaves and berries of the smooth and staghorn sumacs combined with tobacco in traditional smoking mixtures.

Species including the fragrant sumac Rhus aromatica, the littleleaf sumac, R. microphylla, the skunkbush sumac, R. trilobata, the smooth sumac, and the staghorn sumac are grown for ornament, either as the wild type or as cultivars.

The leaves of certain sumacs yield tannin (mostly pyrogallol), a substance used in vegetable tanning. Leather tanned with sumac is flexible, light in weight, and light in colour, even bordering on being white.

Dried sumac wood glows under UV lighting (blacklight) .

Mowing of sumac is not a good control measure as the wood is springy resulting in jagged, sharp pointed stumps when mowed. The plant will quickly recover with new growth after mowing. See Nebraska Extension Service publication G97-1319 for suggestions as to control.

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