Rhus typhina

Staghorn Sumac

Botanical description: Named for the resemblance of its velvety twigs to new deer antlers, staghorn sumac is much admired for its alternate pinnate compound serrated leaves, bright red fall color and its iconic cone-shaped red fruit that last from autumn until spring. Rhus typhina can be found in along sunny woodland edges and road banks, in vacant lots, and in unmaintained public parks. It produces dense, green panicles of flowers in spring and stands in bold, red colonies in the fall that spread through their rhizomatous roots systems, with the thickets often reaching a height of twenty feet. The tallest plants are surrounded by a ring of younger suckers creating a mounded profile. These thickets stabilize soils and slopes while producing essential habitat and food source for wildlife. The brilliant red fruit clusters are consumed by birds and small mammals although they are often the last to be eaten after a long winter. Sumac seeds, when ground, can add a lemon-like flavor to foods and has been used as a spice in Middle-Eastern cuisine. The berries can be immersed in water, steeped for a few hours, and made into a drinkable tonic. Berries have also been used in a variety of medicinal treatments and are valued for their astringent properties.