Sumac: Wikis


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Sumac fruit in fall
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Sapindales
Family: Anacardiaceae
Subfamily: Anacardioideae
Genus: Rhus
Type species
Rhus coriaria

About 250 species; see text

Sumac (pronounced /ˈʃuːmæk/ or /ˈs(j)uːmæk/; also spelled sumach) is any one of approximately 250 species of flowering plants in the genus Rhus and related genera, in the family Anacardiaceae. Sumacs grow in subtropical and temperate regions throughout the world, especially in Africa and North America.[3][4]

Sumacs are shrubs and small trees that can reach a height of 1–10 metres (3.3–33 ft). The leaves are spirally arranged; they are usually pinnately compound, though some species have trifoliate or simple leaves. The flowers are in dense panicles or spikes 5–30 centimetres (2.0–12 in) long, each flower very small, greenish, creamy white or red, with five petals. The fruits form dense clusters of reddish drupes called sumac bobs. The dried drupes of some species are ground to produce a tangy purple spice.[5][6]

Sumacs propagate both by seed (spread by birds and other animals through their droppings), and by new shoots from rhizomes, forming large clonal colonies.

The word sumac has its etymology in medieval Arabic apothecaries, while the word rhus has etymology in ancient Greek.[7]


Cultivation and uses

The drupes of the genus Rhus are ground into a deep-red or purple powder used as a spice in Middle Eastern cuisine to add a lemony taste to salads or meat.[5] In Arab cuisine, it is used as a garnish on meze dishes such as hummus and is added on salads in the Levant. In Iranian (Persian and Kurdish) cuisine, sumac is added to rice or kebab. In Turkish cuisine, for example, it is added to salad-servings of kebabs and lahmacun.

In North America, the Smooth Sumac (Rhus glabra) and the Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina) are sometimes used to make a beverage termed "sumac-ade," "Indian lemonade" or "rhus juice". This drink is made by soaking the drupes in cool water, rubbing them to extract the essence, straining the liquid through a cotton cloth and sweetening it. Native Americans also used the leaves and drupes of the Smooth and Staghorn Sumacs combined with tobacco in traditional smoking mixtures.

Species including the Fragrant Sumac (Rhus aromatica), the Littleleaf Sumac (R. microphylla), the Skunkbush Sumac (R. trilobata), the Smooth Sumac and the Staghorn Sumac are grown for ornament, either as the wild types or as cultivars.

The leaves of certain sumacs yield tannin (mostly pyrogallol), a substance used in vegetable tanning. Leather tanned with sumac is flexible, light in weight, and light in color, even bordering on being white.

Dried sumac wood fluoresces under long-wave ultraviolet radiation, commonly known as black light.[8]

Toxicity and control

Some species, such as Poison ivy (Rhus toxicodendron, syn.Toxicodendron radicans), Poison oak (Rhus diversiloba, syn. Toxicodendron diversilobum) and Poison sumac (Rhus vernix, syn. Toxicodendron vernix), have the allergen urushiol and can cause severe allergic reactions.

Mowing of sumac is not a good control measure as the wood is springy resulting in jagged, sharp pointed stumps when mowed. The plant will quickly recover with new growth after mowing.[9] Goats have long been considered an efficient and quick removal method as they eat the bark, which helps prevent new shoots.


A young branch of Staghorn Sumac
Rhus lancea fruit
Staghorn Sumac bob, Hamilton, Ontario
Winged Sumac leaves and flowers
Rhus malloryi fossil

At times Rhus has held over 250 species. Recent molecular phylogeny research suggests breaking Rhus sensu lato into Actinocheita, Baronia, Cotinus, Malosma, Searsia, Toxicodendron, and Rhus sensu stricto. If this is done, about 35 species would remain in Rhus. However, the data are not yet clear enough to settle the proper placement of all species into these genera.[10][11]

Selected species

  • Rhus acocksii Moffett
  • Rhus albomarginata Sond.
  • Rhus angustifolia L.
  • Rhus batophylla Codd
  • Rhus baurii Schönl.
  • Rhus bolusii Sond. ex Engl.
  • Rhus burchellii Sond. ex Engl.
  • Rhus carnosula Schönl.
  • Rhus chirindensis Bakh.f.
  • Rhus ciliata Licht. ex Schult.
  • Rhus crenata Thunb.
  • Rhus cuneifolia L.
  • Rhus dentata Thunb.
  • Rhus discolor E.Mey. ex Sond.
  • Rhus dissecta Thunb.
  • Rhus divaricata Eckl. & Zeyh.
  • Rhus dracomontana Moffett
  • Rhus dregeana Sond.
  • Rhus dura Schönl.
  • Rhus engleri Britt.
  • Rhus erosa Thunb.
  • Rhus fastigiata Eckl. & Zeyh.
  • Rhus gerrardii (Harv. ex Engl.) Diels.
  • Rhus glauca Thunb.
  • Rhus gracillima Engl.
  • Rhus grandidens Harv. ex Engl.
  • Rhus gueinzii Sond.
  • Rhus harveyi Moffett
  • Rhus horrida Eckl. & Zeyh.
  • Rhus incisa L.f.
  • Rhus kirkii Oliv.
  • Rhus keetii Schönl.
  • Rhus krebsiana Presl ex Engl.
  • Rhus laevigata L.
  • Rhus lancea L.f. (syn. Searsia lancea)
  • Rhus leptodictya Diels.
  • Rhus loemnodia Ruckt.
  • Rhus longispina Eckl. & Zeyh.
  • Rhus lucens Hutch.
  • Rhus lucida L.
  • Rhus macowanii Schönl.
  • Rhus magalismontana Sond.
  • Rhus maricoana Moffett
  • Rhus marlothii Engl.
  • Rhus microcarpa Schönl.
  • Rhus montana Diels
  • Rhus natalensis Bernh. ex Krauss
  • Rhus nebulosa Schönl.
  • Rhus pallens Eckl. & Zeyh.
  • Rhus pendulina Jacq.
  • Rhus pentheri Zahlbr.
  • Rhus pondoensis Schönl.
  • Rhus populifolia E.Mey. ex Sond.
  • Rhus problematodes Merxm. & Roessl.
  • Rhus pterota Presl
  • Rhus pygmaea Moffett
  • Rhus pyroides Burch.
  • Rhus quartiniana A.Rich.
  • Rhus refracta Eckl. & Zeyh.
  • Rhus rehmanniana Engl.
  • Rhus rigida Mill.
  • Rhus rimosa Eckl. & Zeyh.
  • Rhus rogersii Schönl.
  • Rhus rosmarinifolia Vahl
  • Rhus rudatisii Engl.
  • Rhus scytophylla Eckl. & Zeyh.
  • Rhus sekhukhuniensis Moffett
  • Rhus stenophylla Eckl. & Zeyh.
  • Rhus tenuinervis Engl.
  • Rhus tomentosa L.
  • Rhus transvaalensis Engl.
  • Rhus tridactyla Burch.
  • Rhus tumulicola S.Moore
  • Rhus undulata Jacq.
  • Rhus volkii Suesseng.
  • Rhus wilmsii Diels.
  • Rhus zeyheri Sond.
  • Rhus sp. nov. A (Yemen's Socotra Archipelago)[12]
  • Rhus chinensis Mill. - Chinese Sumac
  • Rhus hypoleuca
  • Rhus javanica
  • Rhus punjabensis - Punjab Sumac
  • Rhus verniciflua (syn. Toxicodendron vernicifluum, Lacquer Tree)
  • Rhus succedanea (syn. Toxicodendron succedaneum)
Australia, Pacific
Mediterranean Basin
  • Rhus coriaria - Tanner's Sumac
  • Rhus pentaphylla
  • Rhus tripartita
Eastern North America
Western North America
Mexico and Central America
  • Rhus muelleri - Müller's Sumac (northeast Mexico)

See also



  1. ^ "Rhus L.". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 2009-11-23. Retrieved 2010-02-09. 
  2. ^ "Rhus L.". TROPICOS. Missouri Botanical Garden. Retrieved 2010-02-09. 
  3. ^ 12. Rhus Linnaeus, Flora of China
  4. ^ Rhus L., USDA PLANTS
  5. ^ a b Sumac - Ingredients -
  6. ^ Poison Sumach and Good Sumac Shrubs
  7. ^ Etymology of Sumac at and also at [1] and [2]. Etymology of Rhus at Quattrocchi, Umberto (2000). CRC World Dictionary of Plant Names: Common Names, Scientific Names, Eponyms, Synonyms, and Etymology. IV R-Z. Taylor & Francis US. p. 2306. ISBN 9780849326783. 
  8. ^ Hoadley, R. Bruce (2000). "Chapter 5: Other Properties of Wood". Understanding Wood: a Craftsman's Guide to Wood Technology (2 ed.). Taunton Press. pp. 105–107. ISBN 9781561583584. 
  9. ^ Ortmann, John; Katherine L. Miles; James Stubbendieck; Walter H. Schacht (2000). Management of Smooth Sumac on Grasslands. University of Nebraska-Lincoln. 
  10. ^ Miller, Allison J.; David A. Young; Jun Wen (2001). "Phylogeny and Biogeography of Rhus (Anacardiaceae) Based on ITS Sequence Data". International Journal of Plant Sciences 162: 1401–1407. doi:10.1086/322948. 
  11. ^ Pell, Susan Katherine (2004-02-18). Molecular Systematics of the Cashew Family (Anacardiaceae). Louisiana State University. pp. 103–108. 
  12. ^ Miller, A. 2004. Rhus sp. nov. A. 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 23 August 2007.


  • RO Moffett. A Revision of Southern African Rhus species FSA (Flora of South Africa) vol 19 (3) Fascicle 1.
  • Schmidt, E., Lotter, M., & McCleland, W. (2002). Trees and Shrubs of Mpumalanga and Kruger National Park. Jacana. ISBN 1-919777-30-X.

External links

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