Jump to content

Rhus glabra

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Rhus glabra
Rhus glabra flowers
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Sapindales
Family: Anacardiaceae
Genus: Rhus
R. glabra
Binomial name
Rhus glabra
Natural range of Rhus glabra

Rhus glabra, the smooth sumac,[2] (also known as white sumac, upland sumac, or scarlet sumac)[3] is a species of sumac in the family Anacardiaceae, native to North America, from southern Quebec west to southern British Columbia in Canada, and south to northern Florida and Arizona in the United States and Tamaulipas in northeastern Mexico.

Smooth sumac has a spreading, open habit, growing up to 3 m (9.8 ft) tall, rarely to 5 m (16 ft). The leaves are alternate, 30–50 cm (12–20 in) long, compound with 11–31 oppositely paired leaflets, each leaflet 5–11 cm (2–4+14 in) long, with a serrated margin. The leaves turn scarlet in the fall. The flowers are tiny, green, produced in dense erect panicles 10–25 cm (4–10 in) tall, in the spring, later followed by large panicles of edible crimson berries that remain throughout the winter. The buds are small, covered with brown hair and borne on fat, hairless twigs. The bark on older wood is smooth and grey to brown.


In late summer it sometimes forms galls on the underside of leaves, caused by the parasitic sumac leaf gall aphid, Melaphis rhois. The galls are not harmful to the tree.


Native Americans ate the young sprouts as a salad.[4] The fruit is sour and contains a large seed, but can be chewed (to alleviate thirst) and made into a lemonade-like drink. Deer forage the twigs and fruit.[5] In 2020, archaeologists unearthed a pipe at a dig in Central Washington state, showing chemical evidence that a Native American tribe had smoked Rhus glabra either alone or in a blend with tobacco, perhaps "for its medicinal qualities and to improve the flavor of smoke."[6]


  1. ^ Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI).; IUCN SSC Global Tree Specialist Group (2018). "Rhus glabra". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2018: e.T124270038A135957581. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2018-2.RLTS.T124270038A135957581.en. Retrieved 19 November 2021.
  2. ^ USDA, NRCS (n.d.). "Rhus glabra". The PLANTS Database (plants.usda.gov). Greensboro, North Carolina: National Plant Data Team. Retrieved 21 October 2015.
  3. ^ Clerc, Joseph Arthur Le; Wessling, Hannah L. (1920). "American Sumac". USDA Department Bulletin. 706. Retrieved 30 April 2017.
  4. ^ Little, Elbert L. (1980). The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees: Eastern Region. New York: Knopf. p. 549. ISBN 0-394-50760-6.
  5. ^ Little, Elbert L. (1994) [1980]. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees: Western Region (Chanticleer Press ed.). Knopf. p. 519. ISBN 0394507614.
  6. ^ An Ancient Residue Metabolomics-Based Method to Distinguish Use of Closely Related Plant Species in Ancient Pipes

External links[edit]