(Rhus hirta; R. typhina of Gray) Sumac family

Flowers - Greenish or yellowish white, very small, usually

5-parted, and borne in dense upright, terminal, pyramidal

clusters. Stem: A shrub or small tree, 6 to 40 ft. high, the ends

of branches forked somewhat like a stag's horns. Leaves.

Compounded of 11 to 31 lance-shaped, saw-edged leaflets, dark

green above, pale below; the petioles and twigs often

velvety-hairy. Fruit: Small globules, very thickly covered with

crimson hairs.

Preferred Habitat - Dry, rough or rocky places, banks, roadsides.

Flowering Season - June.

Distribution - Nova Scotia to Georgia, and westward 1500 miles.

Painted with glorious scarlet, crimson, and gold, the autumnal

foliage of the sumacs, and even the fruit, so far eclipse their

inconspicuous flowers in attractiveness that one quite ignores

them. Not so the small, short-tongued bees (chiefly Andrenidae)

and flies (Dipteria) seeking the freely exposed nectar secreted

in five orange-colored glands in the shallow little cups. As some

of the flowers are staminate and some pistillate, although others

show a tendency to revert to the perfect condition of their

ancestors, it behooves them to entertain their little

pollen-carrying visitors generously, otherwise no seed can

possibly be set. And how the autumnal landscape would suffer from

the loss of the decorative, dark-red, velvety panicles! Beware

only of the poison sumac's deadly, round grayish-white berries.

Most sumacs contain more or less tannin in their bark and leaves,

that are therefore eagerly sought by agents for the leather

merchants. The beautiful SMOKE or MIST TREE (R. cotinus),

commonly imported from southern Europe to adorn our lawns

(although a similar species grows wild in the Southwest), serves

a more utilitarian purpose in supplying commerce with a rich

orange-yellow dye-wood known as young fustic. All this tribe of

shrubs and trees contain resinous, milky juice, drying dark like

varnish, which in a Japanese species is transformed by the clever

native artisans into their famous lacquer. With a commercial

instinct worthy of the Hebrew, they guard this process as a

national secret.

The SMOOTH, UPLAND, or SCARLET SUMAC (R. glabra), similar to the

staghorn, but lacking its velvety down, and usually of much lower

growth, is the very common and widely distributed shrub of dry

roadsides, railroad banks, and barren fields. Another

low-growing, but more or less downy upland sumac, the DWARF,

BLACK, or MOUNTAIN SUMAC (R. copallina), may be known by its

dark, glossy green foliage, pale on the underside, and by the

broadening of the stem into wings between the leaflets. Hungry

migrating birds alight to feast on the harmless acid red fruit

when the gorgeous autumnal foliage illuminates their route

southward. But while they are, of course, the natural agents for

distributing the plants over the country, men find that by

cutting bits of any sumac root and planting them in good garden

soil, strong specimens are secured within a year. An exquisite

cut-leaved variety of the smooth sumac adorns many fine lawns.

Everyone should know the POISON SUMAC (R. Vernix - R. venenata of

Gray) as the shrub above all others to avoid. Like its cousin,

the POISON or THREE-LEAVED IVY (R. radicans), which once had the

specific name Toxicodendron, although Linnaeus applied that title

to a hairy shrub of the Southern States, the poison sumac causes

most painful swelling and irritation to the skin of some people,

though they do nothing more than pass it by when the wind is

blowing over it. Others may handle both these plants with

impunity. In spring they are especially noisome; but when the

pores of the skin are opened by perspiration, people who are at

all sensitive should give them a wide berth at any season.

Usually the poison sumac grows in wet or swampy ground; its bark

is gray, its leaf-stalks are red; the leaves are compounded, of

fewer leaflets than those of the innocent sumacs - that is, of

from seven to thirteen - which are green on both sides; the

flowers, which are dull whitish-green, grow in loose panicles

from the axils of the leaves, and naturally the berries follow

them in the same unusual situation. "By their fruits ye shall

know them:" all the harmless sumacs have red fruit clusters at

the ends of the branches, whereas both the poison sumac's and the

poison ivy's axillary clusters are dull grayish-white.

ST. ANDREW'S CROSS STAR OF BETHLEHEM TEN O'CLOCK facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail