Red Butte Photo of the Day September 17, 2009

Submitted September 17, 2009 at 11:06 AM

Skunkbrush Sumac (Rhus aromatica var. trilobata)

American Indians made a tart drink (“Indian lemonade”) from the ripe fruits of skunkbrush sumac. The bark of all sumacs has been used as an astringent, and leaves and bark can be used for tanning leather because of the high tannin content. Various Indian tribes have used fragrant sumac in treatment for various illnesses and health problems. The leaves, mixed with tobacco, were used as a smoking mixture.

The fruit is an important winter food for birds, including turkey, ruffed grouse, robins, and flickers, and for various small mammals (e.g., raccoon, opossum, chipmunk). The foliage is relatively unpalatable to most species of wildlife and domestic livestock. Thickets of fragrant sumac provide cover for many species of birds and small mammals.

Skunkbrush Sumac is becoming more frequently used in xeric plantings and can sometimes be found at the large chain home improvement centers.

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