Fragrant sumac edible

Collect terminal clusters

Rhus glabra L., Rhus hirta (L.) and Rhus aromatica Ait.

By Adam Benfer

Smooth, Staghorn, and Fragrant sumac are three of the most common species of Rhus, which not only resembled each other, but were used similarly. The sumacs are members of the Anacardiaceae (or Cashew Family), like cashews, mangos, and a few common poisonous species. Although they are close cousins of poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac, they have notably different appearances. All of these poisonous relatives have white or yellowish berries. Remember that all edible sumac berries are red and you will never have a problem misidentifying them. However, anyone with known allergies to any member of the Cashew Family should avoid consuming sumac. These edible plants are also known as smooth upland sumac, scarlet sumac, dwarf sumac, lemonade tree, vinegar tree, shining sumac, mountain sumac, hairy sumac, velvet sumac, Virginian sumac, and winged sumac (Angier [2008] 1974: 224; Kindscher 1987: 191; Medve and Medve 1990: 183).


Smooth sumac appears much like a small 3 to 5 meters (9 to 15 feet) tall rapidly growing tree. They tend to grow close together forming dense thickets. The 7 to 9 centimeters (23/4 to 31/2 inches) long lance-shaped leaves of this plant alternate along each stem. Each compound leaf has between 11 to 31 leaflets, has toothed margins, and a shiny dark green upper surface. The small greenish, 5-petaled flowers bloom in large groups at the ends of branches during May and June. The round, red, fleshy, and hairy fruits grow to have a diameter of between 3.5 and 4.5 mm (1/8 to 3/16 inches) when they ripen in August and September. The fragrant sumac is very similar, but has only 3 leaflets and yellow flowers (Kindscher 1987: 191). The staghorn sumac commonly grows a few inches higher than the smooth sumac, but has few other apparent differences (Angier [2008] 1974: 224).

Geographic Distribution

Edible sumacs grow in most regions of southern Canada and the United States in open, sunny, moist habitats such as upland prairies, pastures, meadows, orchard edges, borders and openings of woods, along fences, roads, stream banks and along railroads (Angier [2008] 1974: 224; Kindscher 1987: 191).

Part 2

2012-11-13 08:39:45 by Nurseryman75

In North America, the Smooth Sumac (R. glabra) and the Staghorn Sumac (R. typhina) are sometimes used to make a beverage termed "sumac-ade," "Indian lemonade" or "rhus juice". This drink is made by soaking the drupes in cool water, rubbing them to extract the essence, straining the liquid through a cotton cloth and sweetening it. Native Americans also used the leaves and drupes of the Smooth and Staghorn Sumacs combined with tobacco in traditional smoking mixtures.
Species including the Fragrant Sumac (R. 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 types or as cultivars

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