October 19, 2011

Plant of the month:
Staghorn Sumac

One person’s problem plant is often another’s favorite. Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina) is considered “weedy” and “invasive” by some.* But it’s also a native plant in most of the U.S., and quite common in the eastern half of the country.


In autumn, tourists often travel to regions where Sumac is prevalent to see the spectacular display. This is not surprising to me.


How many plants hold this many colors at one point in time?


We have a woody, scraggly Sumac bush on the side of our driveway. It overhangs the parking spot, and actually kind of gets in the way. We’ve cut it back several times. But I can’t bear to dig it out, because it’s simply beautiful.


In springtime, Sumac forms tiny green flowers, which give way later to large, pointy clusters of hairy berry-like, reddish brown fruits. They definitely provide winter interest, because the red clusters stay on the branches and offer dramatic contrast against white snow. I’ve used the fruit clusters in autumn and holiday floral arrangements, and they hold up for days.


But it’s the leaves that really enchant me.



Weedy and invasive it may be when not under control, but this native plant will always have a place in my garden.


*These definitions tend to change with time, and plants come in and out of favor. Personally, this has always been a favorite for me.

23 comments:

  1. I so love sumac ... a stunning fall reminder that
    ALL is grand!

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  2. It is a very pretty plant at this time of year, very colorful. I am glad you have such spectacular foliage to enjoy.

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  3. I never realized Staghorn Sumacs were considered "invasive?" I always thought they were interesting way before I got into gardening and knew what they were. You really captured some nice photos. The fall colors in your area are beautiful too.

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  4. I love the Sumacs on my property--especially this time of the year! Great info :)

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  5. love the wands of colour and the way the leaves drip down in various shades. What a contrast with the furry fruits

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  6. I can see how that beauty would enthrall...wow! I don't have this plant, but with all the allure it has perhaps I should. Great photos that capture those incredible leaves!

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  7. I enjoy seeing the transformation of colours. They are really nice.

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  8. Very pretty autumn colors. I like sumac, but we have some kind here that gets rather large. It lines the roadways and puts on a great show each fall. Great pics.

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  9. Fantastic for shape and form in a border and there is a cultivar called Lanciata I think which is pretty good. However, beware the suckering!

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  10. This is a native for us and I love it. Although near the lake we have very few. At the old house we had more and I loved to watch the birds fight over the fruit. The colors are gorgeous and I see them in their glory to and from work on the NY Thruway. Wonderful post!!

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  11. I too think that the sumac is a great plant. I brought some onto the property when I first bought the land for Gardens at Waters East. I love it this time of the year. The colors are great. Jack

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  12. They are beautiful! look like parrot feathers. We have them in the area too , just not in the yard.

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  13. @Joey: The colors are so fascinating, and they vary depending on the plant and location, it seems.

    @Masha: Thank you. It has been an incredible autumn for us. Warmish weather and bright, dramatic color.

    @Kathleen: Thanks! There are stands of Sumac all around the neighborhood and along the country roads and highways. It's so vibrant!

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  14. @Rebecca: I'll bet they're amazing in your garden, too! You live in such a beautiful part of the country!

    @Laura: Now I wish I'd taken more shots. I'll have to make sure I do so next year on a bright, sunny day!

    @Sage: It's one of those plants that makes me scratch my head in disbelief that the color is real and not fabricated by human intervention.

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  15. @Autumn Belle: Thank you. That is one neat thing about this climate, I guess. It changes a lot.

    @Holley: Thanks! Yes, we have some large ones along the highways, too. The shots in the post were all from one small plant along the driveway, though.

    @Catharine: Good to know about the Lanciata cultivar. I can see how suckers could be a problem, because it just keeps coming back. But ours is in a very controlled area.

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  16. @Donna: Thank you! It sounds like your drive is breathtaking. We have quite a few Sumacs here in the neighborhood, too.

    @Jack: I'm imagining the beauty of Sumac near Lake Michigan! I'll bet it's glorious right now?

    @David: Yes, they do look kind of like Parrot feathers. And just as colorful!

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  17. Who wouldn't be enchanted by such glorious colour. Shame it comes with a straggly habit!

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  18. You sure make a good case for your lovely sumac. The key really is knowing what you can handle and keep under control, like you said. My yard may be a hodge podge, but if a plant goes beyond the space I have for it, it gets pruned or thinned out. Some end up in tubs so they can't try to take over.

    I know people who can't bear to thin their plants, and they regret that at some point.

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  19. So that's what a sumac looks like! We have them here, too, and they are really beautiful. I love how technicolor the leaves are.

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  20. Stunning photos!
    PS: Thanks so much for the comment you left on my blog - it was very kind of you and really meant a lot to me.

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  21. @Janet: Yes, I agree. :) I guess it just needs the right spot to grow. Large swaths along country roads are so pretty!

    @Sue: Luckily, this Sumac in my garden won't spread much. It's hanging on for its life. I agree, it's best to thin plants when they spread too much.

    @Christine: Thank you! I'm thinking about you these days. Take care.

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  22. I love seeing the sumac this time of year. I don't have any in my own garden, but the roadsides are filled with these plants. Their bright fall foliage makes driving anywhere a pleasure.

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  23. @Rose: Yes, I agree--Sumac really brightens the roadways. Apparently it's native throughout the lower 48, but more common in some spots than others. It must be beautiful in your area right now!

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