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American Outdoor Guide|February 2022
EASY TO RECOGNIZE, THE STAGHORN SUMAC MAKES EXCELLENT LEMONADE AND TEA.
Christopher Nyerges

NAME: STAGHORN SUMAC (RHUS TYPHINA)

SUMAC FAMILY (ANACARDIACEAE)

There are 850 species of Rhus worldwide. In North America, there are three closely related species, all of which look similar and all of which can be used similarly as described in this article: R. typhina, widespread and common in the Northeastern states; R. glabra, or smooth sumac, widespread throughout southern Canada and much of the lower 48 U.S. states; and R. copallinum, or winged sumac, most common in the southeastern United States.

DESCRIPTION

Staghorn sumac is native to eastern North America. It's primarily found in southeastern Canada, the northeastern and Midwestern United States and the Appalachian Mountains. It's commonly cultivated as an ornamental.

This plant is easiest to recognize when its conspicuous fruit is present in the fall; it sits like a red cardinal in the tree. The shape of the fruit, a cluster of the seeds, has been described as torch-like and about 8 inches long. The individual seeds are red and covered in hair.

Staghorn sumac leaves are pinnately divided, with anywhere from 11 to 31 leaflets. The leaves are arranged opposite each other and are dark green above.

The underside of the leaf is pale green and velvety. The margins of the leaflets are serrated.

The whole tree is very conspicuous in the fall as its leaves start to turn yellow or red. The bark is smooth and covered in a velvety hair.

WHERE FOUND

This small tree is found widely throughout the eastern portion of the United States, although it can sometimes (but rarely) be found in the West. It's common around farm properties and fields, in mountainous areas and even in urban areas. I've seen it only once in the wild in California, but I saw it everywhere when I lived in Ohio-on the edges of most farms, along the roads and in town. I saw it growing in Appalachia and on the Mall in Washington, D.C.

PRIMARY USE

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