South Dakota Native Plant Research
Anacardiaceae : Rhus glabra

Anacardiaceae : Rhus glabra


Download Seed: The smooth yellowish seeds of smooth sumac are 3-3.5 mm long. (57 KB)

Download Mature plant (1.6 MB)

Download Flower buds (1.3 MB)

Download Leaves and fruit (1.3 MB)

Download Fruiting: (3.6 MB)

Family Name


Common Name

Smooth sumac

Native American Name

Dakota: "Cha zi (*Chaw zee) Lakota: čhaŋz


Rhus glabra is a shrub to small tree with a spreading, open habit, growing from 3 to 5 m tall and spreading by root suckers to form dense thickets. The young stems and branches are hairless or nearly so and waxy. The bark on older wood is smooth and grey to brown. The compound pinnate leaves are alternate, 30-50 cm long with very short petioles (4-7 mm long). Each leaf has 11–31 oppositely paired leaflets, each leaflet lanceolate to ovate-lanceolate, 7-9 cm long, with a toothed margin. The leaves turn scarlet in the fall. The inflorescence is a dense terminal panicle 10-20 cm long, with numerous tiny green flowers. The fruit are compressed crimson drupes 3.5-4.5 mm in diameter, and they remain throughout the winter. The seeds are yellowish, smooth and about 3 mm long. Smooth sumac bloom in May and June and the fruit ripen in August and September. They are common in open woodlands in thickets, prairies, and roadsides throughout South Dakota.

Additional Notes

Smooth sumac fruits are consumed by birds and small mammals of many kinds, mainly in winter. They can also be prepared as a drink similar to lemonade that is quite palatable if not boiled but made like sun tea. The roots make yellow dye. Staghorn sumac spreads rapidly by suckers and needs much space or maintenance to keep it contained. Rhus glabra can be confused with R. typhina but can be distinguished by the hairy stems and knobby fruit of the latter.


Horticulture Notes

Seed collection: Fruits can be gathered in the late fall and winter. Removal of the dry fruit from the seed will enhance germination.

Germination: Seed coat is hard and waterproof. Acid scarification before spring planting will produce good results. Seeds planted in the fall will begin to germinate the following year.

Vegetative propagation: Suckers can be separated from the main plant and established by transplanting in the spring.

Light: Full sun to partial shade. Plants will grow in full shade.

Soil: Most dry soils. sand, sandy loam to clay loam and even clay.

Notes: Plants can be rejuvenated every few years by cutting them to the ground in mid-winter.

Anacardiaceae : Rhus glabra