Fragrant sumac Ontario

Fragrant sumac berries

When we lived in Ontario, we frequently saw thickets of staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) in dry sandy spots. This is an eastern species of small tree or large shrub that is distinctive at any time of year. It is found in otherwise barren thickets that, in our minds, typify the hot summers of southwestern Ontario. I can still hear the singing of the cicadas and the chirping of the crickets in July as we walked through 90F heat, skirting a colony of sumac on a dry sandy knoll. The heat was electric, the cicadas were electric. Heat, sand, sumac = summer. It spreads by seeds and rhizomes, so forms colonies or clones that can sometimes be quite extensive. In the Fraser delta, we sometimes see this species as an escape from gardens, where it is grown because of its drought tolerance.

Staghorn sumac isn’t the only species of sumac in Ontario. You can also find smooth sumac (Rhus glabra), fragrant sumac (, winged sumac (Rhus copallina), shining sumac (Rhus copallina var. latifolia). Poison sumac (Rhus or Toxicodendron vernix) is found in swamps and swamp forests. Smooth sumac is a widespread North American species that is found across the continent, while poison sumac is found in eastern North America from Ontario and Quebec south to Florida and Texas. Winged sumac and fragrant sumac are also eastern in distribution, but a little more widely spread than poison sumac.

Poison sumac is a bad species to come in contact with. It can give you a worse-than-poison ivy-rash that takes weeks to subside. There is nothing quite like wading through a swamp or up a creek clambering over or under poison sumac shrubs and trying not to touch them. Especially in southwestern Ontario where they are often accompanied by llianas of poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans). When you stumble and grab onto a vine for support, you can only hope you have grabbed Virginia creeper, another climbing vine, and not a poison ivy vine.



Smooth sumac and staghorn sumac hybridize, and hybrids have been reported from Ontario. Hybrids have been named as Rhus X pulvinata or

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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