1. Rhus aromatica Aiton (fragrant sumac, aromatic sumac)
Pl. 200 a, b;
Stems 0.5–1.5 m long, erect or ascending. Branches nearly glabrous to
densely hairy, aromatic when bruised. Leaves trifoliate, the petiole
1.0–2.5 cm long. Leaflets variable in shape and lobing, nearly glabrous
to densely pubescent, the terminal leaflet sessile, broadly ovate to rhombic,
4–9 cm long, 2–8 cm wide, scalloped or toothed near the tip,
entire and angled at the base. Inflorescences terminal, small panicles with
spicate branches, 2–6 cm long, 1–3 cm wide, the branches occasionally
relatively small and appearing as dense clusters of flowers. Flower stalks
1–3 mm long. Sepals lanceolate, 1.0–1.4 mm long,
0.3–0.4 mm wide, broadly rounded at the tip, the surfaces glabrous,
reddish brown, the margins with nonglandular hairs. Petals oblong-obovate,
1.6–2.5 mm long, rounded at the tip, glabrous or hairy on the inner
surface, yellow. Fruits 5–7 mm long, 4–6 mm wide, red, slightly
flattened, pubescent with dense, minute, stout, red glandular hairs and sparse
to dense, white to colorless nonglandular hairs. 2n=30.
common throughout the state (eastern U.S. west to South Dakota and Texas;
Canada). Glades, tops of bluffs, savannas, and openings of mesic to dry upland
forests; also old fields and roadsides.
The species of Rhus
with flowers in spikes sometimes have been treated separately from those with
flowers in a terminal panicle, as the genus or subgenus Schmaltzia. The
trifoliate-leaved species at times have been placed in Lobadium, which
is now considered a section of Rhus. Barkley (1937) recognized four
species of Rhus with trifoliate leaves and reddish fruits, which he
separated on the basis of overall size, length of the bracts, shape and size of
the leaflets, relative pubescence, length of the flower stalks, and time of
flowering relative to leaf emergence. Two of these are found in the United States: R. aromatica in the
eastern portion of the country, and R. trilobata in the Great Plains region and farther west. The transition from
one species to the other occurs in a broad region that includes Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Kansas.
Numerous varieties and combinations in both R. aromatica and R.
trilobata have been proposed, but there is general agreement that a careful
biosystematic study of the entire complex is needed before any of these names
can be applied with confidence.
The fruits of
both R. aromatica and R. trilobata sometimes are steeped in hot
water to make a pleasant beverage with a somewhat lemony flavor. However,
because these species contain trace amounts of the same chemical substances
that are produced more abundantly in Toxicodendron, a very small
percentage of individuals who are hypersensitive to urushiols develop a strong
allergic reaction to drinking the tea.