Regularity: Regularly occurring
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, southern Quebec, and Maine;
west to southern Ontario, northern Michigan, and northern Minnesota;
south to central Iowa, central Illinois, western Tennessee, and northern
Alabama; and east to northern Georgia, northwestern South Carolina,
Maryland, and New Jersey .
Occurrence in North America
MA MI MN NH NJ NY NC OH PA RI
SC TN VT VA WV WI NB NS ON PE
Staghorn sumac is a native, deciduous tall shrub or small tree growing
up to 40 feet (13.7 m) in height [3,16]. The trunk is usually short,
dividing frequently to form ascending branches . Younger branches,
petioles, and leaf-rachis are densely and softly hirsute . Each
leaf is composed of 9 to 29 leaflets that are lanceolate to narrowly
oblong, 2 to 4.7 inches (5-12 cm) long [12,16]. Leaves are only
produced on new branch segments; old branches do not bear leaves .
The fruit is a drupe 0.08 to 0.2 inch (2-5 mm) broad, covered with long,
spreading, red hairs, in dense, cone-shaped clusters [8,9,12]. The bark
is thin and nearly smooth, but sometimes peels off in layers .
Habitat: Cover Types
This species is known to occur in association with the following cover types (as classified by the Society of American Foresters):
15 Red pine
18 Paper birch
20 White pine - northern red oak - red maple
21 Eastern white pine
22 White pine - hemlock
23 Eastern hemlock
24 Hemlock - yellow birch
25 Sugar maple - beech - yellow birch
26 Sugar maple - basswood
27 Sugar maple
52 White oak - black oak - northern red oak
53 White oak
55 Northern red oak
60 Beech - sugar maple
64 Sassafras - persimmon
78 Virginia pine - oak
80 Loblolly pine - shortleaf pine
81 Loblolly pine
82 Loblolly pine - hardwood
Habitat: Plant Associations
This species is known to occur in association with the following plant community types (as classified by Küchler 1964):
K095 Great Lakes pine forest
K100 Oak - hickory forest
K102 Beech - maple forest
K103 Mixed mesophytic forest
K104 Appalachian oak forest
K106 Northern hardwoods
K110 Northeastern oak - pine forest
K111 Oak - hickory - pine forest
K112 Southern mixed forest
Key Plant Community Associations
sites. It occurs on the edges of many forest types, and is a frequent
member of early oldfield communities, particularly on dry soils.
clearings, roadsides, forest edges, and open woods [6,33,40,44].
Staghorn sumac is found at elevations ranging from 100 to 2,000 feet
(30-610 m) in the Adirondack Mountains, New York , and at elevations
up to 4,900 feet (1500 m) in the Appalachians .
This species is known to occur in the following ecosystem types (as named by the U.S. Forest Service in their Forest and Range Ecosystem [FRES] Type classification):
FRES10 White - red - jack pine
FRES13 Loblolly - shortleaf pine
FRES14 Oak - pine
FRES15 Oak - hickory
FRES18 Maple - beech - birch
FRES19 Aspen - birch
Foodplant / saprobe
perithecium of Diaporthe rhois is saprobic on dead branch of Rhus typhina
Foodplant / parasite
fruitbody of Ganoderma applanatum parasitises live trunk of Rhus typhina
Other: minor host/prey
Foodplant / saprobe
more or less gregarious, immersed, then shortly erumpent pycnidium of Phomopsis coelomycetous anamorph of Phomopsis rhois is saprobic on dead peduncle of Rhus typhina
Remarks: season: 12-4
Plant Response to Fire
Staghorn sumac may sprout immediately after fire. Skutch  observed
a staghorn sumac shoot 4.3 inches (11 cm) long within 20 days of a
wildfire in a spruce (Picea spp.)-hardwood stand in Maine.
In Michigan staghorn sumac had its highest frequency indices in
postfire years 3 and 51 of a longitudinal study. Bigtooth aspen
(Populus grandidentata) was the early dominant tree species, and was
eventually replaced by red maple (Acer rubrum) and eastern white pine
(Pinus strobus). Northern red oak (Quercus rubra) and paper birch
(Betula papyrifera) also increased in the later years of the study .
Marks  observed abundant staghorn sumac seedlings in northern New
York on sites where logging slash piles had been burned. He noted that
the sites had not contained any adult staghorn sumac stems prior to
harvest, but that staghorn sumac seed sources did exist within 0.37 mile
(0.6 km) of the burns. Staghorn sumac had been present early in
oldfield succession, but had apparently died out. Staghorn sumac
seedlings were restricted to the burned areas, most of them concentrated
on the edges; the centers of the slash piles had experienced extreme
heat. According to Marks, staghorn sumac germination appeared to have
been either directly triggered by the fire or by the fire's effect on
the site . Given the impermeability of the seedcoat, coupled with
the fact that heat treatments will enhance germination, it seems
possible that staghorn sumac seeds were scarified by the fire. High
heat in the centers of slash piles probably killed seeds.
In central New York staghorn sumac was a dominant shrub in an
Acer-Betula-Aster community that established after heavy logging
followed by a severe fire .
Immediate Effect of Fire
Staghorn sumac has no apparent adaptations for fire resistance; it is
probably easily top-killed or killed by fire due to its thin bark.
Adaptations for fire survival include sprouting from the roots when
top-killed. In addition, staghorn sumac seeds are apparently somewhat
resistant to high temperatures and may be stimulated to germinate by
fire. It does not appear exclusively (or even with great frequency) in
fire-dependent communities , but it does occasionally occur these
communities. In Vermont, pitch pine (Pinus rigida) communities dominate
cutover areas, and are maintained by fire. Where fire is suppressed,
gray birch (Betula populifolia) cover increases at the expense of pitch
pine. Staghorn sumac was found in low numbers on a 12-year-old clearcut
dominated by gray birch, red maple (Acer rubrum), mapleleaf viburnum
(Viburnum acerifolium), American hazel (Corylus americanum), myrica
(Myrica spp.), and blueridge blueberry (Vaccinium vaccilans). It was
therefore present in either the preharvest community or in an adjacent
More info for the terms: cover, density, hardwood, succession, tree
Obligate Initial Community Species
Staghorn sumac is not tolerant of shade. In Massachusetts its
occurrence in woodlands is associated with irregular open canopies
and/or sites in or adjacent to light gaps . It is a common invader
of recently abandoned fields [15,24].
Staghorn sumac clone interiors can reduce light intensity up to 90
percent. This creates a situation where new staghorn sumac stems from
root sprouts are unlikely to thrive, and where ground-layer herbs are
also inhibited. Only shade-tolerant species are able to colonize dense
staghorn sumac thickets . In Michigan a staghorn sumac colony came
to dominate two oldfield sites that had thick ground-layer perennials
including quackgrass (Elytrigia repens). As staghorn sumac stems
matured and the canopy closed, ground-layer species decreased. At this
point (7-10 years after abandonment) numerous tree species began to
invade the site. Of the 13 species observed, 9 tended to establish
under staghorn sumac cover and overall hardwood seedling density was
highest under staghorn sumac cover. It was hypothesized by the authors
that staghorn sumac facilitates succession by reducing the amount of
ground cover, thus allowing tree seedlings to establish .
On roadbank sites in northern Kentucky, staghorn sumac reduced the
growth of crownvetch (Coronilla varis) and tall fescue (Festuca
arundinacea). These sites were subsequently invaded by Amur honeysuckle
(Lonicera maackii), but not other tree species. The authors acknowledge
that succession on sites as highly disturbed as roadside embankments is
not likely to be a good model for oldfield or other types of secondary
Sexual reproduction: Staghorn sumac generally produces at least some
seed every year . Over the 4 years of a phenology study in West
Virginia, there were no staghorn sumac crop failures. The author rated
staghorn sumac as one of the most consistent seed bearers .
Colonies that produce seed do so in abundance . Seeds exhibit
dormancy, probably as a result of hard, impermeable seedcoats .
Staghorn sumac seeds were present (intact) in the buried seedbank of an
oldfield site in Virginia . However, staghorn sumac probably
invades new areas via bird-dispersed seed rather than from the seedbank
[1,15]. Germination of staghorn sumac seeds is enhanced by acid
scarification or hot water treatment . In a greenhouse study on the
effects of the amount and kinds of litter on seed germination, it was
reported that the amount, type, or relative composition of litter
(needlelike vs. lamellar leaves) did not significantly affect the number
of staghorn sumac seedlings that emerged .
Vegetative reproduction: Staghorn sumac forms large, dense colonies via
root sprouts [6,40]. This appears to be the mode of reproduction that
results in the largest number of stems; the colonies usually originate,
however, from a single seed [27,29]. Staghorn sumac is dioecious, and
large, single-sexed clumps of stems can form . Within female clumps
within a staghorn sumac population there was a greater incidence of dead
and vegetative trunks than within male clumps (the clumps were assumed
to be clones) . Female trunks, however, grow at the same rate as
male trunks. Female trunks within a clone may draw on the resources of
other, nonfruiting trunks to which they are linked by underground
Root sprout production in staghorn sumac is apparently stimulated by
top-damage; large numbers of sprouts emerged from staghorn sumac
colonies that were top-damaged by frost in Kentucky .
Growth Form (according to Raunkiær Life-form classification)
Life History and Behavior
More info for the term: tree
Staghorn sumac flowers from May to July, depending on latitude [8,16].
The fruits are usually ripe by September and persist on the tree through
the winter [6,17,31,44].
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Rhus typhina
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 2
Species With Barcodes: 1
Barcode data: Rhus hirta
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Rhus hirta
Public Records: 2
Specimens with Barcodes: 2
Species With Barcodes: 1
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure
Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure
was reported as abundant in clearcuts, but was not present in the
understory of intact pine (Pinus spp.) plantations in the Great Lakes
States. It was also absent from the germinable seedbank of the intact
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Value for rehabilitation of disturbed sites
In Maryland and West Virginia, staghorn sumac occurred on strip-mined
sites reclaimed to herbaceous annuals and perennials. The frequency of
staghorn sumac on the sites was positively correlated with its relative
abundance in the adjacent forest edge .
On a site in New Hampshire, the vegetation and upper soil layers were
removed to create a sand pit. Much of the site was left to revegetate
naturally; staghorn sumac presence was noted in a survey conducted 11
years after the site was abandoned .
Staghorn sumac is planted for wildlife cover in the Northern Great
Nutritional values for staghorn sumac fruits (seeds and fruits ground
together) have been reported as follows :
percent of fresh weight
crude protein 5.0
crude fiber 13.37
Northern bobwhites failed to thrive on a diet consisting solely of
staghorn sumac fruits .
Other uses and values
water-use plantings (xeriscaping) , although its habit of producing
root sprouts is detrimental to lawn maintenance . The
infructescence of staghorn sumac is used to make a beverage and jelly
Importance to Livestock and Wildlife
gamebirds, songbirds , and mammals . White-tailed deer 
and moose  browse the leaves and twigs. The bark and twigs are
eaten by rabbits, especially in winter .
Royale, Michigan . In southern and central Wisconsin  and
Minnesota  staghorn sumac was listed as fifth in preference for
In New York staghorn sumac fruits were lowest in preference (of
blackberry (Rubus allegheniensis), gray dogwood (Cornus racemosa),
arrow-wood (Viburnum dentatum), and common buckthorn (Rhamnus
cathartica) for birds .
Rhus typhina syn. R. hirta (staghorn sumac or stag's horn sumach) is a species of flowering plant in the family Anacardiaceae, native to eastern North America. It is primarily found in Southeastern Canada, the Northeastern and Midwestern United States and the Appalachian Mountains, but is widely cultivated as an ornamental throughout the temperate world.
The specific epithet typhina is explained in Linnaeus's and Ericus Torner's description of the plant with the phrase "Ramis hirtis uti typhi cervini" meaning "the branches are rough like antlers in velvet".
Rhus typhina is a deciduous shrub or small tree growing to 5 m (16 ft) tall by 6 m (20 ft) broad. It has alternate, pinnately compound leaves 25–55 cm (10–22 in) long, each with 9–31 serrate leaflets 6–11 cm long. The leaf petioles and the stems are densely covered in rust-colored hairs. The velvety texture and the forking pattern of the branches, reminiscent of antlers, have led to the common name "stag's horn sumach".
Staghorn sumac is dioecious, and large clumps can form with either male or female plants. The fruit is one of the most identifiable characteristics, forming dense clusters of small red drupes at the terminal end of the branches; the clusters are conic, 10–20 cm (4–8 in) long and 4–6 cm (2–2 in) broad at the base. The plant flowers from May to July and fruit ripens from June to September. The foliage turns to brilliant shades of red, orange and yellow in autumn (fall). The fruit has been known to last through winter and into spring.
Staghorn sumac is not closely related to poison sumac (Toxicodendron vernix), despite the common name.
In late summer it sometimes forms galls on the underside of leaves, caused by the sumac leaf gall aphid, Melaphis rhois. The galls are not harmful to the tree.
Staghorn sumac is a highly ornamental plant which provides interest throughout the year, though its vigorous, suckering habit makes it unsuitable for smaller gardens. It can grow under a wide array of conditions, but is most often found in dry and poor soil on which other plants cannot survive. Some landscapers remove all but the top branches to create a "crown" effect in order to resemble a small palm tree. Numerous cultivars have been developed for garden use, of which 'Dissecta' syn. 'Laciniata' (cutleaf staghorn sumac) has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit, is also grown in gardens as an ornamental plant.
The Staghorn Sumac was introduced to Europe in the 17th century and is popular as a garden plant. In both French and German, the common name of the species (Sumac vinaigrier, Essigbaum) means "vinegar tree".
Some beekeepers use dried sumac bobs as a source of fuel for their smokers.
The fruit of sumacs can be collected, soaked and washed in cold water, strained, sweetened and made into a pink lemonade. The leaves and berries of staghorn sumac have been mixed with tobacco and other herbs and smoked by Native American tribes. This practice continues to a small degree to this day.
All parts of the staghorn sumac, except the roots, can be used as both a natural dye and as a mordant. The plant is rich in tannins and can be added to other dye baths to improve light fastness. Harvest the leaves in the summer and the bark all year round.
- United States Geological Survey: "Rhus typhina Range Map" accessed 2008-03-02
- Linnaeus et al. (1756) Centuria II plantarum, p. 1 4
- Richard H. Uva, Joseph C. Neal and Joseph M. Ditomaso, Weeds of The Northeast, (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1997), pp. 326–327.
- RHS A-Z encyclopedia of garden plants. United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. 2008. p. 1136. ISBN 1405332964.
- Sullivan, Janet. 1994. Rhus typhina. In: Fire Effects Information System (Online). U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory.
- USDA Forest Service: Woody Plant Seed Manual: Rhus.
- Newgarden, Robert (December 1, 1997). "Cutleaf Staghorn Sumac—A Sophisticated Cultivar". Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Retrieved 2011-09-12.
- "RHS Plant Selector - Rhus typhina 'Dissecta'". Retrieved 3 July 2013.
- Lee Allen Peterson, Edible Wild Plants, (New York City: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1977), p. 186.
- Cowasuck Band of the Pennacook-Abenaki People: The People of the White Pines: Smoking and Pipes
- Jenny Dean, Wild Color: The Complete Guide to Making and Using Natural Dyes, (New York City: Watson-Guptill Publications, 1999), p. 123.
|Wikispecies has information related to: Rhus typhina|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Rhus typhina.|
- USDA Plants Profile for Rhus typhina (staghorn sumac)
- Germplasm Resources Information Network: Rhus typhina.
- Bioimages: Rhus typhina (as R. hirta).
- Photographs and descriptions of plants of Missouri. Rhus typhina.
- North Woods wiki. Rhus typhina.
- Brian Johnston. A Close-up View of the Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina). Microscopy—UK.
The dense conical clusters of crimson-hairy fruits are very attractive.
Names and Taxonomy
Comments: Known as Rhus typhina in virtually all floras, and so treated by Kartesz (1980 and 1999 but not 1994, where called Rhus hirta). The older Linnaean name 'Datisca hirta' has as its type not a member of the Datiscaceae, but an aberrant ("monstrous") specimen of the sumac species otherwise known as Rhus typhina. Without special action by an International Botanical Congress, the principle of nomenclatural priority would require the displacement of the familiar name Rhus typhina with the obscure name Rhus hirta, based on Datisca hirta, as done in the published 1994 Kartesz checklist (ed. 2). In 1998, the Committee for Spermatophyta published its decision (Taxon 47: 442) that the species name Datisca hirta should be nomenclaturally rejected (as now allowed under the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature), allowing Datisca hirta to be ignored for purposes of priority, therefore permitting a return to the use of the familiar name Rhus typhina for this species. The formal designation of Datisca hirta (and hence Rhus hirta) as a nomenclaturally rejected name is in the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature, St. Louis ed. (2000), p. 398. LEM 3Jun98, rev. 17Oct01
typhina L. . Staghorn sumac hybrizes with smooth sumac (R. glabra);
the hybrid has alternately been named R. Xpulvinata Greene  or R.
Xborealis (Britton) Greene [12,16].
EOL content is automatically assembled from many different content providers. As a result, from time to time you may find pages on EOL that are confusing.
To request an improvement, please leave a comment on the page. Thank you!