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Rhus glabra

Common Name(s):
Smooth sumac
Native Plants, Shrubs, Trees

Rhus glabra, commonly called smooth sumac, is a deciduous shrub which occurs on prairies, fields, abandoned farmland, clearings and along roads and railroads throughout the State. It is a large, open, irregular, spreading shrub which typically grows 8-15' tall and spreads by root suckers to form thickets or large colonies in the wild. It is very similar to staghorn sumac (R. typhina), except the young stems of staghorn are densely pubescent whereas those of this species are smooth, hence the common name. The bark is smooth and light brown with numerous lenticels when young.  Large, thin scales develop as the tree ages.

It can be rejuvenated by cutting to the ground every few years.  Smooth sumac is acolony forming shrub.  

Regions:  Mountain, Piedmont, Coastal plains

Seasons of Interest: 

  Leaf:  Fall                   Blooms:  Summer/late summer            Nut/Fruit/Seed:  Late summer/fall

Wildlife Value:    This plant is moderately resistant to damage from deer.  It is a host plant for Red-Banded Hairstreak catepillars.  Butterflies nectar at the flowers.  Its fruits are eaten by songbirds, white-tailed deer, opossums, wild turkeys and quail.  Its bark is eaten by rabbits.

Insects, Diseases, or Other Plant Problems: No serious insect or disease problems. It has some susceptibility to leaf spot, rust, scale, aphids and mites. Tends to spread aggressively.

9-15 ft.
The Smooth sumac has, yellowish-green flowers bloom in terminal panicles (5-10" long) in late spring to early summer, with separate male and female flowers appearing on separate plants (dioecious). Female plants produce showy, erect, pyramidal fruiting clusters (to 8" long). Each cluster contains numerous hairy, berry-like drupes which ripen red in autumn, gradually turning maroon-brown as they persist through most of the winter.
The Smooth sumac grows best in average, dry to medium moisture, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. It is tolerant of a wide range of soils except those that are poorly drained.
Medium to coarse
Shrubby; often multistemmed
Sun to partial shade; tolerates poor dry soil ; does not tolerate shade or wet soil
Greenish white flowers; velvety red fruit in late summer on female plants
9-15 ft.
Growth Rate:
Moderate to rapid
The smooth sumac has large, alternate, compound pinnate, shiny, dark green leaves (each with 9-27 leaflets) grow to 18" long with a fern-like appearance and turn attractive shades of bright orange to red in autumn.
winter interest, deciduous, drought tolerant, native, birds, butterflies, wildlife, good fall, showy

NCCES plant id: 544

Rhus glabra Rhus glabra
Kent McFarland, CC BY-NC-2.0
Rhus glabra Rhus glabra
Tim Waters, CC BY-NC-ND - 2.0
 Rhus glabra Rhus glabra
Wendell Smith, CC BY - 2.0
 Rhus glabra Rhus glabra
Andrey Zharkikh, CC BY - 2.0
Wendell Smith Rhus glabra
Anne McCormack, CC BY-NC-2.0
Wendell Smith Rhus glabra
Bill Barber, CC BY-NC-2.0