From Academic Kids

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Winged Sumac leaves and flowers
Scientific classification

About 250 species; see text

Rhus is a genus approximately 250 species of woody shrubs and small trees in the family Anacardiaceae. They are commonly called sumac or sumach. Some species (including poison-ivy, poison-oak, and poison sumac), often placed in this genus, are here treated in the genus Toxicodendron, which differs in highly allergenic foliage and grayish-white fruit but is not genetically distinct. The name derives from the Greek name for sumac, rhous.

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A young branch of Staghorn Sumac.

The leaves are spirally arranged; they are usually pinnately compound, though some species have trifoliate or simple leaves. The flowers are in dense panicles or spikes 5-30 cm long, each flower very small, creamy white, greenish or red, with five petals. The fruit form dense clusters of reddish drupes.

The genus is found in subtropical and warm temperate regions throughout the world, with the highest diversity in southern Africa.

Cultivation and uses

The hairy covering of the drupes is harvested and used as a spice in some Middle-Eastern countries. In North America, the smooth sumac, Rhus glabra, and the staghorn sumac, Rhus typhina, are sometimes used to make a beverage, termed "sumac-ade" or "Indian lemonade" or "rhus juice". This drink is made by soaking the drupes in cool water, rubbing the active principle off the drupes, then straining the liquid through a cotton cloth and sweetening it.

Species including the fragrant sumac Rhus 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 type or as cultivars.

Sumac propagates both by seeds, which are spread by birds and other animals through feces, and new sprouts from roots, forming large clonal colonies. Mowing of sumac is not a good control measure as the wood is springy resulting in jagged, sharp pointed stumps when mowed. The plant will quickly recover with new growth after mowing. See Nebraska Extension Service publication G97-1319 ( for suggestions as to control.


Species in Africa:

  • Rhus laevigata
  • Rhus lancea (Willow Rhus)
  • Rhus lucida (Shiny-leaved Rhus)
  • Rhus viminalis

Species in Asia:

  • Rhus chinensis (Chinese Sumac)
  • Rhus hypoleuca
  • Rhus javanica
  • Rhus punjabensis (Punjab Sumac)

Species in Australia:

  • Rhus taitensis

Species in the Mediterranean region:

  • Rhus coriaria (Tanner's Sumac)
  • Rhus pentaphylla
  • Rhus tripartita

Species in eastern North America:

  • Rhus aromatica (Fragrant Sumac)
  • Rhus copallina (Winged Sumac or Shining Sumac)
  • Rhus glabra (Smooth Sumac)
  • Rhus lanceolata (Prairie Sumac)
  • Rhus michauxii (Michaux's Sumac) Conservation status: Endangered
  • Rhus typhina (Staghorn Sumac)

Species in western North America include:

  • Rhus choriophylla
  • Rhus laurina (Laurel Sumac)
  • Rhus integrifolia (Lemonade Sumac)
  • Rhus microphylla (Desert Sumac), Littleleaf sumac
  • Rhus ovata (Sugar Sumac)
  • Rhus trilobata (Skunkbush Sumac)
  • Rhus virens (Evergreen Sumac)

Species in Mexico and Central America include:

Species in the Pacific (Oceania):

da:Sumak (Rhus) de:Sumach eo:Sumako


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