Staghorn Sumac (Rhus Typhina) – Definition & Detailed Explanation – Tree Types Glossary

What is Staghorn Sumac (Rhus Typhina)?

Staghorn Sumac, scientifically known as Rhus typhina, is a deciduous shrub native to North America. It belongs to the Anacardiaceae family and is commonly found in open areas, along roadsides, and in disturbed habitats. The name “Staghorn” refers to the fuzzy, velvety texture of the branches, which resemble the antlers of a male deer, or stag. The plant is also known by other names such as Velvet Sumac, Virginian Sumac, and Shining Sumac.

Where does Staghorn Sumac typically grow?

Staghorn Sumac is native to eastern North America, ranging from Ontario and Quebec in Canada, down to Georgia and Alabama in the United States. It thrives in a variety of habitats, including dry, rocky slopes, open woodlands, and along roadsides. Staghorn Sumac is known for its ability to grow in poor, sandy soils and is often found in disturbed areas such as abandoned fields and clearings.

How to identify Staghorn Sumac?

Staghorn Sumac can be easily identified by its distinctive features. The plant typically grows to a height of 15-30 feet, with a spreading, open crown. The branches are covered in dense, velvety hairs that give them a rough, textured appearance, resembling the antlers of a stag. The leaves are compound and pinnate, with 11-31 leaflets arranged in a feather-like pattern. In the fall, the foliage turns a brilliant red, adding a splash of color to the landscape.

The fruit of Staghorn Sumac is a dense cluster of small, red drupes that ripen in late summer and persist through the winter. The fruit is a valuable food source for birds and wildlife, who feed on the nutritious seeds. The plant also produces small, greenish-yellow flowers in spring, which are attractive to pollinators such as bees and butterflies.

What are the uses of Staghorn Sumac?

Staghorn Sumac has a long history of use by Native American tribes for its medicinal and culinary properties. The fruit of the plant is rich in vitamin C and can be used to make a tangy, lemonade-like beverage known as “sumac-ade.” The dried and ground berries can also be used as a spice, adding a citrusy flavor to dishes.

In addition to its culinary uses, Staghorn Sumac has been used medicinally to treat a variety of ailments, including sore throats, fevers, and digestive issues. The plant contains tannins and antioxidants that have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties.

Staghorn Sumac is also valued for its ornamental qualities in landscaping. The plant’s vibrant fall foliage and striking red fruit clusters make it a popular choice for adding color and interest to gardens and naturalized landscapes. It is a low-maintenance plant that thrives in a variety of soil types and requires minimal care once established.

How to care for Staghorn Sumac?

Staghorn Sumac is a hardy and adaptable plant that requires little maintenance once established. It prefers full sun to partial shade and well-drained soil. The plant is drought-tolerant once established and does not require regular watering. Pruning is generally not necessary, but dead or damaged branches can be removed as needed to maintain the plant’s shape.

To propagate Staghorn Sumac, seeds can be collected from ripe fruit in the fall and sown in a well-draining soil mix. The seeds require a period of cold stratification before germination, so they can be placed in the refrigerator for several weeks before planting. Alternatively, the plant can be propagated through division or by taking hardwood cuttings in late winter.

Are there any potential concerns with Staghorn Sumac?

While Staghorn Sumac is generally considered safe and non-toxic, there are a few potential concerns to be aware of. Some individuals may experience skin irritation from contact with the plant’s fuzzy branches, so gloves should be worn when handling the plant. In rare cases, allergic reactions to the plant’s sap or pollen have been reported, so individuals with sensitivities to plants in the Anacardiaceae family should use caution.

In terms of invasiveness, Staghorn Sumac has the potential to spread rapidly in favorable conditions and can become weedy in some areas. To prevent unwanted spread, the plant should be monitored and any seedlings or suckers should be promptly removed. Overall, Staghorn Sumac is a valuable and versatile plant that offers a range of benefits for both humans and wildlife.