Botanical Name : Rhus typhina
Species: R. typhina
Synonyms:Rhus hirta,Rhus viridiflora.
Common Names:Stag’s Horn Sumach, Velvet Sumac, Staghorn Sumac
Habitat :Rhus typhina is native to eastern North America. It is primarily found in southeastern Canada, the northeastern and midwestern United States and the Appalachian Mountains, but is widely cultivated as an ornamental throughout the temperate world.
Rhus typhina is a deciduous shrub or small tree growing to 5 m (16 ft) tall by 6 m (20 ft) broad. It has alternate, pinnately compound leaves 25–55 cm (10–22 in) long, each with 9–31 serrate leaflets 6–11 cm long. The leaf petioles and the stems are densely covered in rust-colored hairs. The velvety texture and the forking pattern of the branches, reminiscent of antlers, have led to the common name “stag’s horn sumach“.
Staghorn sumac is dioecious, and large clumps can form with either male or female plants. The fruit is one of the most identifiable characteristics, forming dense clusters of small red drupes at the terminal end of the branches; the clusters are conic, 10–20 cm (4–8 in) long and 4–6 cm (2–2 in) broad at the base. The plant flowers from May to July and fruit ripens from June to September. The foliage turns to brilliant shades of red, orange and yellow in autumn (fall). The fruit has been known to last through winter and into spring.
Landscape Uses:Border, Massing, Specimen. Succeeds in a well-drained fertile soil in full sun. Tolerates poor soils. Succeeds in dry soils and is drought resistant once it is established. A fairly wind hardy plant, though the branches are brittle and can be broken off in very high winds. A very hardy plant, when fully dormant it can tolerate temperatures down to at least -25°c. However, the young growth in spring can be damaged by late frosts. A fast growing but short-lived tree, it can sucker freely, forming thickets and becoming quite anti-social when grown in small areas. Single-stem plants are short-lived in cultivation, but if the plants are coppiced regularly and allowed to form thickets, then they will live longer and also be more ornamental with larger leaves. Any coppicing is best carried out in early spring. A very ornamental plant, there are some named varieties. It is susceptible to coral spot fungus but is notably resistant to honey fungus. It transplants easily. This is a very good bee plant, the flowers producing an abundance of pollen and nectar. There is some doubt over the validity of this name and the earlier R. hirta. has been proposed as the correct name. However, it seems likely that R. typhina will be retained because it is so well known. This species is closely related to and hybridizes with R. glabra. Many of the species in this genus are highly toxic and can also cause severe irritation to the skin of some people, whilst other species such as this one are not poisonous. It is relatively simple to distinguish which is which, the poisonous species have axillary panicles and smooth fruits whilst non-poisonous species have compound terminal panicles and fruits covered with acid crimson hairs. The toxic species are sometimes separated into their own genus, Toxicodendron, by some botanists. Dioecious. Male and female plants must be grown if seed is required. Special Features: Attracts birds, North American native, Attractive flowers or blooms.
Seed – best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe. Pre-soak the seed for 24 hours in hot water (starting at a temperature of 80 – 90c and allowing it to cool) prior to sowing in order to leach out any germination inhibitors. This soak water can be drunk and has a delicious lemon-flavour. The stored seed also needs hot water treatment and can be sown in early spring in a cold frame. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 10cm with a heel, July/August in a frame. Root cuttings 4cm long taken in December and potted up vertically in a greenhouse. Good percentage. Suckers in late autumn to winter.
Fruit – cooked. A very sour flavour, they are used in pies. The fruit is rather small and with very little flesh, but it is produced in quite large clusters and so is easily harvested. When soaked for 10 – 30 minutes in hot or cold water it makes a very refreshing lemonade-like drink (without any fizz of course). The mixture should not be boiled since this will release tannic acids and make the drink astringent.
Stag’s horn sumach was often employed medicinally by several native North American Indian tribes who valued it especially for its astringent qualities. It is little used in modern herbalism. Some caution is advised in the use of the leaves and stems of this plant, see the notes above on toxicity. The bark is antiseptic, astringent, galactogogue and tonic. An infusion is used in the treatment of diarrhoea, fevers, piles, general debility, uterine prolapse etc. An infusion is also said to greatly increase the milk flow of a nursing mother – small pieces of the wood were also eaten for this purpose. The inner bark is said to be a valuable remedy for piles. The roots are astringent, blood purifier, diuretic and emetic. An infusion of the roots, combined with purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) has been used in the treatment of venereal disease. A poultice of the roots has been used to treat boils. The leaves are astringent. They have been used in the treatment of asthma, diarrhoea and stomatosis. An infusion of the fruits has been used as a tonic to improve the appetite and as a treatment for diarrhoea. The berries are astringent and blood purifier. They were chewed as a remedy for bed-wetting. A tea made from the berries has been used to treat sore throats. The flowers are astringent and stomachic. An infusion has been used to treat stomach pains. The sap has been applied externally as a treatment of warts. Some caution is advised here since the sap can cause a rash on many people.
The leaves are rich in tannin, up to 48% has been obtained in a controlled plantation. They can be collected as they fall in the autumn and used as a brown dye or as a mordant. The bark, especially the root bark, and the fruits are also very rich in tannin. A yellow dye can be obtained from the roots. An orange dye can be obtained from the inner bark and central pith of the stem, mixed with bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis). A black ink can be made by boiling the leaves and the fruit. An oil is extracted from the seeds. It attains a tallow-like consistency on standing and is used to make candles. These burn brilliantly, though they emit a pungent smoke. Pipes are made from the young shoots and are used for drawing the sap of sugar maples (Acer spp). They are also used as flutes. The plant has an extensive root system and is planted as a windbreak screen and to prevent soil erosion. Wood – soft, light, brittle, coarse grained. It weighs 27lb per cubic foot. Of no commercial value, though it is sometimes used as a rough construction wood or is employed in turning.
Known Hazards: There are some suggestions that the sap of this species can cause a skin rash in susceptible people, but this has not been substantiated. See also notes in ‘Cultivation’.
Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.