The Staghorn Sumac is an open land plant found on drier soils, including prairies, grasslands, savannas, and woodlands. It can grow in a wide range of conditions and habitats but is typically found in dry and poor soil where other plants cannot survive as easily. It is primarily found in southeastern Canada and the Northeastern United States, from Georgia all the way up to Maine. Species have also been noted in South Dakota, Kansas, and the midwestern states. It is cultivated throughout the world in temperate climates, including parts of Europe, Argentina, and China.
Origin, history, and uses:
The name *Rhus* *typhina* traces its origin to Carl Linnaeus and Ericus Torner, who, in the eighteenth century, wrote the following description of the plant: “Ramis hirtis uti typhi cervini.” This translates to “the branches are rough like antlers in velvet.” This is how the Staghorn Sumac received its name. Because the Staghorn Sumac is endemic to Eastern Canada and the United States, Native American tribes in the area are thought to have smoked the dried sumac fruit. They also used the fruit, which is deep red in color, as a natural dye. Other species of the sumac family, of which there are about 250, have been used throughout history as medicines. Pliny the Elder, a naturalist in the first century, noted the use of the Syrian Sumac fruit as “a necessary ingredient in various medicaments.” He believed it to have been able to relieve fevers. The Staghorn Sumac is widely used by wildlife and humans. Northern cardinals, evening grosbeaks, and other birds eat the berries in the winter and disperse the seeds. Rabbits, deer, and moose browse on the foliage. Bees, flies, and insects obtain nectar from the plant and help pollinate the pistillate flowers. Humans use the sumac berries — which have a tart, lemon taste — to create a refreshing drink. Some people say that the berries can be used as an ailment for sore throats. Similarly, the roots can be made into teas that ostensibly stop bleeding. Sumac stems can be woven into baskets, while the leaves and bark can be used for tanning leather.
The sumac staghorn is pollinated in the spring by various insect pollinators (e.g., bees, wasps, flies, etc.) and blooms between June and July. The sumac berries fully mature between August and September. Throughout winter, the fruits remain on the tree and serve as a food source for birds. As a deciduous tree, the staghorn sumac has green leaves in the spring/summer and bright red and orange leaves in the autumn.