581 Rhus copallinumCommon Names: R. copallina (syn.), Shining sumac, Winged sumac Family: Anacardiaceae (cashew Family)
Winged sumac is a fast growing and short lived deciduous shrub or small tree getting up to about 20 ft (6.1 m) tall with an irregular crown spreading to 10 ft (3.1 m) or so. The leaves are alternate, pinnately compound, about 1 ft (0.3 m) long with 9-23 leaflets. The rachis (leaf stem) is winged between the leaflets. Stems and twigs are densely pubescent (covered with short soft hairs). Greenish yellow flowers appear in spring, summer and fall. The flowers are tiny, but packed in showy terminal clusters 6-10 in (15.2-25.5 cm) long. The fruits appear in fall and persist through much of the winter even after the leaves have fallen. These small red pubescent drupes are hung handsomely in big beautiful clusters against the colorful autumn foliage. Winged sumac often forms thickets and a mass in bloom or in fruit makes a memorable sight.
Winged sumac, Rhus copallinum, occurs in dry woods, sandhills, roadsides, abandoned fields and disturbed areas in the eastern US from southeastern Maine, west to Michigan, and south to Texas and Florida.
CultureLight: Grows in full sun to partial sun. Moisture: Highly drought tolerant. Hardiness: USDA Zones 5 - 11. Propagation: By division of the suckers and by seed.
Winged sumac is a good choice for low maintenance or xeriscape landscaping. It is easy to transplant and easy to care for. It grows well on sandy, infertile soils. It usually is planted in informal landscapes or wildlife gardens where it may spread by underground runners to form a shrubby thicket for songbirds and other wildlife. Its showy fall foliage provides an added benefit. Winged sumac grows well in urban areas where air pollution, poor drainage and compacted soil prevent most small trees from surviving. It is used in buffer strips, highway medians and reclamation projects.
The leaves turn brilliant orange red in fall before they drop. The fruits are relished by many kinds of birds. Native Americans used the roots of winged sumac to treat dysentery and made a dye from the berries.
Jack Scheper 10/29/99; updated 9/18/04