Winged Sumac (Dwarf Sumac; Shining Sumac)

Rhus copallinum
Anacardiaceae (cashews)

A slender-branched shrub to small tree with a rounded top; forming thickets from root sprouting.

Leaves alternate, feather-compound, 5–12 inches long, central stem hairy and broadly winged; leaflets 7–17, tip pointed, base ending at a sharp angle, margin usually without teeth; upper surface dark green, shiny; lower surface paler, hairy; broken leaves and leaf stalk bleed a white sticky sap. Turn bright red in fall.

Bark thick, greenish, brown to gray, some shallow grooves, pores red and prominent.

Twigs brittle, green to reddish-brown, hairy at first, smooth later, bleed a white sticky sap when broken; pores dark.

Flowers late May–July, both male and female flowers in dense clusters at the end of new growth, on separate plants; clusters 6–8 inches long; flowers numerous, about 1/8 inch across; petals 5, greenish-white.

Fruits September, compact clusters, erect or drooping, persistent; fruit round, flattened, red, hairy, about 1/8 inch wide, 1-seeded.

Height: to 26 feet.
Habitat and conservation: 
Occurs in prairies, thickets, open woods, rocky sandstone, chert and igneous glades, borders of woodlands generally in acid soils, old fields, roadsides and along railroads. Winged sumac makes a desirable ornamental shrub due to its glossy, dark green leaves and brilliant red fall color. Its hardiness and thicket-forming growth make it good for parking lot and highway-median plantings.
Distribution in Missouri: 
This species is most common south of the Missouri River. (There are four species of sumacs in Missouri.)
Winged sumac's scientific name is sometimes spelled "Rhus copallina," but the rules for scientific names argue against it. In this case, Carolus Linnaeus, the father of our scientific naming system, himself "discovered" this plant, and he named it "copallinum." The rules require us to use his original spelling. The "copallina" spelling originated when midcentury botanists argued that the Latin word "Rhus" is grammatically feminine and "corrected" Linnaeus’s name to match it.
Human connections: 
Growing in popularity as a landscaping shrub. The fruits have been crushed and used to flavor drinking water, and the tannin-rich bark has been used in the tanning industry. Native Americans and pioneers had many medicinal uses for this plant.
Ecosystem connections: 
Many types of birds eat the berries, and deer occasionally browse the berries, stems and foliage. Shrubby plants provide important cover for all kinds of animals.
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