Tennessee Smart Yards Native Plants

A comprehensive database of Tennessee native plants

Shining Sumac, Flameleaf Sumac, Winged Sumac

Shining Sumac, Flameleaf Sumac, Winged Sumac

Rhus copallinum (R. copallina)

Full sun; medium to dry moisture level; grows in almost any soil, coarse to fine, except those that are poorly drained; slightly acid to neutral pH.

10-20 feet height by 10-20 feet spread; tiny, pale yellow to greenish flowers in pyramidal spikes 4-8 inches long in summer; showy clusters of round, red, hairy fruits, each ¼ inch in diameter, held in dense spikes 4-8 inches long and turning maroon-brown, in fall.

Growth Rate: Rapid. Spreads aggressively by root suckers to form large colonies. May spread outward at 3 feet or more per year.

Maintenance: No serious diseases or insect problems. Susceptible to wind and ice damage. Colonies can be rejuvenated every few years by cutting them to the ground in mid-winter.

Propagation: Easy by root division in early winter. Difficult by seed as germination rate is low, and seed requires acid scarification for 1-3 hours.

Native Region: Statewide

Large shrub or small tree with short, crooked trunks and open branching. Best used in naturalized situations where it has room to spread. Has some attractive ornamental features including flowers in spring, shiny dark green foliage in summer, fruiting clusters, and brilliant red leaves in fall. Male and female flowers occur on separate plants, and only female plants produce seed. (Occasionally plants are found with both male and female flowers.) Colonies are often single-sexed, forming from a single, suckering parent.

Best used on drastically disturbed sites where a pioneer species is needed. Occurs naturally in dry woods, clearings, fencerows, cliffs and old fields. Compact and dense when young, and then becoming more and more open, irregular and picturesque as it ages. Colonies appear to lose their vigor in about 15 years. Cultivars available.

High wildlife value. Pheasants, quail, deer, turkey, a variety of small and large mammals, and about 300 species of songbirds include sumac fruit in their diet. Attracts honey bees.

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