Jepson (2012) (APG System)





Jepson (1993) (Cronquist System)



Rhus (sumac) is a genus that is found throughout the world. A number of species produce fruit that are used for flavorings, spice or tannins. The species that cause rashes were taken out of Rhus, and placed in the genus Toxicodendron

Rhus (Sumac)

California Native Plant Guide
Native Plant Genera

Plant Relationships

California Species:

Rhus integrifolia
Rhus ovata
Rhus trilobata

Skunkbush sumac

Other Species:

Rhus glabra
Rhus typhina

Smooth sumac
Staghorn sumac


Growth Forms:

Rhus integrifolia and Rhus ovata are medium to large woody shrubs. Rhus trilobata is a low, small shrub with thin branches.


Alternate branching in a spiral pattern around the stem.


Rhus integrifolia and Rhus ovata have simple leaves. Rhus trilobata is pinnately compound with three leaflets, similar to poison oak.


Flowers are in panicles or racemes. They tend to stand upward at the ends of branches.


Fruits are drupes. They often have a lemony or spicy fragrance, and are often used for spices or flavorings. Some species produce tannins.

Growing Conditions

Sun and Exposure:

Sumac prefers full sun. Rhus trilobata can tolerate partial shade.

Soil and Moisture Requirements:

Sumac grows best in rich, well drained soil with adequate summer moisture. It does grow, however, in droughty chaparral conditions.
Sumac from the eastern United States is characteristic of moist and even wet locations.

Natural Habitat and Range:

Rhus integrifolia and Rhus ovata are chaparral species in southern California and Baja California. They are found in the coastal zone as well as the coast ranges. They are also found at upper elevations in Arizona.

Horticulture and Restoration

Horticultural Comments:

It is most important to provide a well drained site, as well as abundant sunlight. Sumac benefits from supplemental irrigation.

Wildlife Habitat:

Fruit are eaten by wildlife.

Restoration Projects:

Rhus ovata and Rhus integrifolia are used in southern California restoration projects, particularly in the coastal zone. They are also used in northern California in native landscapes.

California Native
Plant Guide

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