Also Known As
Dwarf Sumac 
Flameleaf Sumac 
Mountain Sumac 
Shining Sumac 

Order:   Sapindales
Family:   Anacardiaceae
Genus:    Rhus
Species: copallina

Florida n c s

Edible Parts
Honey Fruit Shoots Caution
Animal Interaction
Bee Insect Bird Butterfly Moth Rabbit
Other Uses
Mug Medicinal
This particular species of sumac makes an excellent sumac-ade. In fact, it is my all-time favorite species for making this refreshing rose-colored drink. Make sure that you gather the "fruits" at the correct time of year. October through December is usually the primary time to pick them, or later into the season if a few hard rains wash the resins off of the fruits. To test them in the field, pop a few red-colored ones into your mouth... suck on them, and spit out the hard-as-stone single seed. If you taste a sort of vitamin-C tablet flavor, then they are just right. If you get no flavor, they may be past season, and the rains have washed the tasty resins away. Be sure to remove all of the stems, as they contain bitter flavors. Bees love nectaring at the flowers, and you may hear a loud drone from them before you even see the plant. Dry these fruit clusters and store them in a mason jar, for year-round use. Also, try powdering them, as a Middle eastern-style seasoning... yummy. 

—CAUTION:  “There are some suggestions that the sap of this species can cause a skin rash in susceptible people, but this has not been substantiated.“ [5] DO NOT EAT THE INNER SEED OF THE FRUIT. In the garden, this plant will sprout from colonial, horizontal roots, and form a colony, spreading a bit too much for some.    

MAIN PHOTO: Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park, Nov. 26, 2016.
EDIBLE FRUITS: Harvest usually begins in October/November, and according to how much rain we receive, they may last through January. If unusually heavy rains occur in December onwards, the resins may be washed away sooner.
- SUMAC-ADE: This particular species makes an excellent sumacade. —“An agreeable acidic flavor.” [5]  The fruits clusters, in dense panicles, are easily harvested.  Soak in cold or hot water for 10-30 minutes. [5]  It “makes a very refreshing lemonade-like drink.” [5]  “The mixture should not be boiled since this will release tannic acids and make the drink astringent.” [5]  Collect fruits before the rain. [7] 
- JELLY: “The fruits can be processed into jelly.” [9] 
- SUMAC POPSICLES: Wildcrafter Leda Meridithmakes Sumacsicles = "Sumac Popsicles." “Simply  freeze  the  sweetened  sumac-ade  in  popsicle  molds.” 
- POWDERED SPICE: The red, velvety fruit covering may be dried and powdered, much like some sumac species are from the Middle East. Some Turkish restaurants, here in Florida, use sumac powder as a food seasoning. Wildcrafter Leda Meredith writes, in a Mother earth News article, “You’ve already tasted sumac if you’ve ever eaten at a restaurant that serves Middle-eastern style food. It is one of the ingredients in the ubiquitous Middle-eastern seasoning blend Za’atar, and it is the reddish powder sprinkled around the rim of your plate in Egyptian restaurants. “Red Za’atar,” as dried, powdered sumac is sometimes called, usually comes from Rhus coriaria, a sumac native to the Mediterranean region.” I wasn't quite sure if one is supposed to grind the "velvety fruits" whole, or with the seed removed. I asked Green Deane , on a plant walk that Mycol Stevens and I were leading at the Neal Preserve in Bradenton, and Deane told me that the fruit is ground to powder, seed and all. Thanks for the clarification, Deane.
—EDIBLE INNER SHOOT TIPS:  Peeled, young shoots are edible.  “First year shoots off old stumps are the best, but the spring-time tips of old branches are also edible but not as good.  Look at the end of a shoot after you break it off.  If you see pith, which is an off-white core, it is too old.  Break off that part then look again.  You want a shoot stem that is all green inside.  Then strip off the leaves and peel the shoot.  You can eat it raw or cooked.  They very purfume-ish and slightly astringent.” – Green Deane.
- LEAVES: Some native tribes have used the dried leaves as a tobacco extender. I need to do more research to see if this is a safe practice. Being in the Cashew/Sumac family, and being related to Poison Ivy by the way, many plants within this family can cause irritating reactions in a good number of people.
—MEDICINAL USES:  Astringent, enuresis, galactogogue.  
—EXTERNAL MEDICINAL USES:  Poultice, salve. 
—OTHER USES:  It may be planted as a non-dense hedge. 
- BEEKEEPING: Some beekeepers consider the dried fruiting clusters a choice smokeable bee relaxant in their smokers. The flowers have “special value to native and honey bees.” [9] 
- DYE:  “A black dye is obtained from the fruit.” [5]  Native Americans used them for dyeing. [6]  Some get a “stunning” dye that is a “light shade of gold” from the fruits. [9]  MORDANT:  “The leaves can be collected as they fall in the autumn and used as a brown dye or as a mordant. [5] 
- TANNIN:  The leaves, fruit and bark are rich in tannin.  The leaves “contain 10-25% tannin.” [5]  “Up to 35.8% has been obtained from some plants.” [5] 
- VARNISH:  “A resin, [similar to] 'copal resin', is obtained from the sap of this plant.  When dissolved in any volatile liquid, such as oil of turpentine, it makes a beautiful varnish.” [5]  “The sap turns black when exposed to air and has been used for varnish, particularly in Japan.” [7] 
- WOOD:  “Wood - light, soft, coarse grained.  32 lbs. per cubic foot. Sometimes used for small posts.” [5] 
- SEED OIL FOR CANDLES:  “An oil is extracted from the seeds. It attains a tallow-like consistency on standing and is used to make candles. These burn brilliantly, though they emit a pungent smoke.” [5] 
- SOIL STABILIZATION:  The extensive root system “makes it useful for stabilizing soils.” [5] 
—WILDLIFE:  One can often hear the drone of multiple pollinators nectaring on these flowers.  It is pollinated by bees [5], “flies, ants, and many Thread-Waisted Wasps.”
- BIRDS: Fruits are eaten by birds. [5]  Birds eat the dried fruits well into winter, [4] including “bobwhite, wild turkey, bluebirds, hermit thrush, robins, and cardinal.” [6]  Also grouse. [9]  Its provides “dense, shrubby cover for birds and wildlife.” [4] 
- BUTTERFLIES AND MOTHS: Host to the Red-Banded Hairstreak and Spring/Summer Azure butterflies, as well as Luna Moths, [6] Royal Walnut Moth [9], and the Spotted Datuna moth.
- RABBITS:  “Rabbits eat the bark and twigs.” [9] 
- DEER: “The twigs are browsed extensively by White-Tailed Deer, during the winter months [up north.” [9] 

—NATIVE TO:  “Eastern N. America - Maine to Florida, west to Texas and Illinois. “ [5]   It is the most common Sumac in Florida.  
—HABITAT:  “Generally found in dry soils on hillsides, along the margins of woodlands and roads, and in abandoned fields[229]. “ [229]Elias. T. The Complete Trees of N. America. Field Guide and Natural History.
—DESCRIPTION:  Deciduous flowering shrub growing rapidly to 10-12, sometimes to 18 feet tall, equal spread.  Reports to 20 feet tall. [6]  Dioecious [only females produce fruits.]  Crown rounded. Plants form colonies via extensive root systems.
- LEAVES: Shiny, compound, on winged stems, turn brilliant orange-red in the fall further north. 
- FLOWERS: Tiny, greenish-yellow, “borne in compact, terminal panicles.” [5] 
- FRUIT: In dense panicles, 3-5 cm. long, very little flesh, “hairs are covered with malic acid.” [7]. 
- HARDINESS:  USDA zones 4-10 [5] 
- LIGHT:  Full sun, it does not tolerate shade, but will take partial shade. 
- SOIL:  Does fine in light sandy soil. [5]  It also tolerates clay, loam, slightly alkaline, acidic, and well-drained soil. [4]  Likes well-drained soil. [5]  Tolerant of nutritionally poor soils. [5] 
- WATER:  Highly drought tolerant. 
- WIND:  Tolerates strong winds. [5] 
- PROPAGATION:  By seeds or root cuttings.
- NATIVE GARDENS: It “is often cultivated, where it is well-suited to natural and informal landscapes.”  

More Details

Flowering Calendar

Flower Color
Flowering Type

Fruiting Calendar

Fruit Color

Pine Flatwood Fencelines

Plant Form
Woody Deciduous Perennial Shrub
15 feet
10 feet

Hardiness Zone
4a to 10b
Ease of growth
Very Easy
Part Sun Full Sun
Sandy Rich Clay Well-Drained
5.5 - 7.0
Drought Tolerant Wind Tolerant
10 feet


[2] dogtooth77 on flickr 
[4] Wikipedia 
[8] Cameron Prybol 
[10] Jules Stonesoup on flickr 
Last Updated: October 28, 2017