Floridata Plant Encyclopedia

A Floridata Plant Profile 95 Rhus typhina

Common Names: staghorn sumac, velvet sumac Family: Anacardiaceae (cashew Family)
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staghorn sumac
Staghorn sumac often grows as a colony of small trees. The large pinnate leaves surround handsome maroon fruits that form at the stem tips. In autumn the foliage turns brilliant shades of red and orange and the fuzzy fruits become scarlet darkening with age.


The staghorn sumac is commonly shrubby, occurring in small groups from root suckers. It is also encountered as a tree 25-35ft in height and 6-12in in diameter with an irregular open and flat crown. A deciduous species, the leaves are alternate and pinnate. The fruit is borne as a dense cluster of deep crimson dry berries at the top of the tree. The fruits ripen in the fall and persist throughout the winter.


Staghorn sumac, Rhus typhina, is a native of the Eastern United States. It ranges from Indiana, north into Canada, and south to Alabama and Georgia. It grows naturally on rocky hillsides and dry banks preferring limestone derived soils.


Light: Requires full sunlight. Moisture: Will grow on drier soils as well as moist sites. Hardiness: USDA Zones 4 - 8. Propagation: Rooted cuttings.
staghorn sumac
Staghorn sumac's fuzzy fruit clusters in late summer
staghorn sumac
Staghorn sumac becomes very showy in autumn when the foliage reddens and the fuzzy scarlet fruits mature.


Sumac has been cultivated in Europe for centuries as an ornamental prized for its vivid fall foliage and distinctive fruit. Indians in this country made a drink from the fruit which tastes like lemonade and has a high vitamin C content. Sumac bark and fruit are high in tannin, and were once used to tan leather.


In winter the bare forked branches with their short heavy twigs resemble the antlers of a deer in velvet giving rise to the common name. The dark red fall foliage and fruit make this fast growing tree a valued ornamental.

Steve Christman09/02/97; updated 10/23/99

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Rhus species profiled on Floridata:

Rhus copallinum

( R. copallina (syn.), Shining sumac, Winged sumac )

Rhus typhina

( staghorn sumac, velvet sumac )

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