Rhus trilobata

Botanical Name ; Rhus trilobata
Family: Anacardiaceae
Genus: Rhus
Species: R. trilobata
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Sapindales

Common Names :Sourberry, Skunkbush,  Three-leaf sumac,  Trilobata Skunk Bush, Basketbush, Squawbush.

Habitat ;Rhus trilobata is native to the western half of Canada and the Western United States, from the Great Plains to California and south through Arizona extending into northern Mexico. It can be found from deserts to mountain peaks up to about 7,000 feet in elevation.

Rhus trilobata, Skunkbush sumac, grows in many types of plant communities, such as the grasslands east of the Rocky Mountains, mountainous shrubland, pine, juniper, and fir forests, wetlands, oak woodlands, and chaparral. The plant is destroyed above ground but rarely killed by wildfire, and will readily sprout back up in burned areas.

Description:
This Rhus species closely resembles other members of the genus that have leaves with three “leaflets” (“trifoliate” leaves). These include Rhus aromatica, native to eastern North America, and western Poison-oak. The shape of the leaflets and the habit of the shrub make this species, like some other Rhus, resemble small-leafed oaks (Quercus).
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The Rhus trilobata leaves have a very strong scent when crushed. The aroma is medicinal or bitter, disagreeable enough to some to have gained the plant the name skunkbush. The leaves are green when new and turn orange and brown in the fall. The twigs are fuzzy when new, and turn sleek with age. The flowers, borne on small catkins (“short shoots”), are white or light yellow. Edible fruit, the plant yields hairy and slightly sticky red berries which have an aroma similar to limes and a very sour taste. The acidity comes from tannic and gallic acids. The flowers are animal-pollinated and the seeds are dispersed by animals that eat the berries. The shrub also reproduces vegetatively, sending up sprouts several meters away and forming thickets.

Edible Uses:
The berries, although sour, are edible. They can be baked into bread or mixed into porridge or soup, or steeped to make a tea or tart beverage similar to lemonade.

Medicinal Uses:
The skunkbush sumac has historically been used for medicinal and other purposes. The bark has been chewed or brewed into a drink for cold symptoms, the berries eaten for gastrointestinal complaints and toothache, and the leaves and roots boiled and eaten for many complaints. The leaves have also been smoked.

Skunk bush was employed medicinally by several native North American Indian tribes, who valued it especially for its astringent qualities and used it to treat a range of complaints. Bark: An infusion of the bark has been used as a douche after childbirth. The bark has been chewed, and the juice swallowed, as a treatment for colds and sore gums. Bark has also been used for: Cold remedy, in which the bark is chewed and the juice is swallowed; Oral aid, in which the bark is chewed;

Fruit: The fruit has been eaten as a treatment for stomach problems and grippe. The fruit has been chewed as a treatment for toothache and also used as a mouthwash. A decoction of the fruit has been used as a wash to prevent the hair falling out.  The dried berries have been ground into a powder and dusted onto smallpox pustules.  Veterinary aid.

Leaves: An infusion of the leaves has been used in the treatment of head colds. A decoction of the leaves has been drunk to induce impotency as a method of contraception. A poultice of leaves has been used to treat itches. Leaves are a gastrointestinal aid, in which the leaves are boiled; Diuretic aid, in which the leaves are boiled.

Roots: A decoction of the root bark has been taken to facilitate easy delivery of the placenta. The roots have been used as a deodorant. The buds have been used on the body as a medicinal deodorant and perfume.  Tuberculosis Aid, in which the roots are consumed

Other Uses:
It is sometimes planted for erosion control and landscaping, and is a plant used for reclaiming barren land stripped by mining.The flexible branches were useful and sought after for twisting into basketry and rugs.

Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhus_trilobata
http://www.herbnet.com/Herb%20Uses_RST.htm
http://fireflyforest.net/firefly/2005/06/29/skunkbush-sumac/
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rhus_trilobata_7.jpg

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