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Rhus typhina
Rhus typhina

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Zones A1-A3, 1-10, 14-17, 31-45
Full Sun
Regular WaterMinimal Water
Moderate, Minimal

Rhus typhina

Staghorn Sumac
Deciduous, Shrubs, Trees


Of the ornamental sumacs, deciduous kinds are extremely hardy to cold; they are noted for brilliant fall leaf color and, on female plants, showy clusters of (usually) red fruits that attract birds. They tend to produce suckers, especially if their roots are disturbed by cultivation. Evergreen species are less hardy. All sumac species thrive in almost any soil, as long as drainage is good (soggy soils can kill them).

Poison oak and poison ivy were once members of the genus Rhus, but they have been reclassified as Toxicodendron.

Rhus typhina

Deciduous shrub or tree. Native to eastern North America, this upright grower reaches 15–30 ft. tall, spreading much wider by suckers. Very similar to R. glabra, but the branches have a velvety coat of short brown hairs—much like antlers of a deer “in velvet.” Leaves are divided into 11 to 31 toothed, 5-in.-long leaflets; foliage is deep green above, grayish beneath, turns yellow orange to rich red in fall. Blooms in early summer, bearing 4–8-in.-long clusters of tiny greenish blossoms followed by clusters of fuzzy crimson fruits that hang on all winter, gradually turning brown. 

‘Laciniata’ is a female selection with deeply cut leaflets; it grows 10–12 ft. tall. ‘Tiger Eyes’ is also dissected, but golden, growing about 6 ft. tall and wide.

Both R. typhina and R. glabra take extreme heat and cold. Big, divided leaves give tropical effect; fall show is brilliant (for best effect, plant among evergreens). Bare branches make a fine silhouette in winter; fruit is decorative. Both species colonize aggressively by root suckers—a potential problem, especially in small gardens. They grow well when confined to large containers. 

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