South Dakota Native Plant Research
Anacardiaceae: Rhus typhina

Anacardiaceae: Rhus typhina


Download Mature plant (6.6 MB)

Download Fruit (3.9 MB)

Download Hairs on stem and knobby flowers (705 KB)

Family Name


Common Name

Staghorn sumac


Rhus typhina 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, leaf petioles and buds are densely covered with rust colored hairs. The bark on older wood is smooth and grey to brown. The compound pinnate leaves are alternate, 25-55 cm long with very short petioles (4-7 mm long). Each leaf has 9–31 oppositely paired leaflets, each leaflet lanceolate to ovate-lanceolate, 6–11 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 with knobby hairs on much of the surface. The fruit remain on the plants throughout the winter. The seeds are yellowish, smooth and about 3 mm long. Staghorn 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

Staghorn sumac is native to eastern North America, is widely used as an ornamental and has spread throughout much of the continent. These shrubs are similar to R. glabra but can be distinguished by their hairy stems and knobby fruit. Their 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.

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 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 typhina