Rhus aromatica Ait.

fragrant sumac

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New England Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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North America Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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Facts About

Fragrant sumac is a low-growing shrub (4 feet or 1.2 m tall), which forms thickets in glades and on rocky balds. Its compound leaves with three leaflets loosely resemble those of its cousin, poison ivy, but this plant is not poisonous. Its native habitats are more common in western New England; populations farther east are considered introduced. It produces catkins of separate male (staminate) and female (pistillate) flowers in early spring, before leaf-out. The hairy, red berries persist well into winter and are food sources for birds and small mammals.

Habitat

Cliffs, balds, or ledges, ridges or ledges, woodlands

Characteristics

Habitat
terrestrial
New England state
  • Connecticut
  • Massachusetts
  • Vermont
Growth form
the plant is a shrub (i.e., a woody plant with several stems growing from the base)
Leaf type
the leaf blade is compound (i.e., made up of two or more discrete leaflets
Leaves per node
there is one leaf per node along the stem
Leaf blade edges
the edge of the leaf blade has teeth
Leaf duration
the leaves drop off in winter (or they wither but persist on the plant)
armature on plant
the plant does not have spines, prickles, or thorns
Leaf stalk
the leaves have leaf stalks
Fruit type (general)
the fruit is dry but does not split open when ripe
Bark texture
  • the bark of an adult plant is thin and smooth
  • the bark of an adult plant peels off easily or hangs off
Twig winter color
  • brown
  • gray
  • red
Bud scale number
there are no scales on the winter buds
Show All Characteristics
  • Buds or leaf scars
    Bud scale number
    there are no scales on the winter buds
    Bud scar shape (Fraxinus)
    NA
    Collateral buds
    there are no collateral buds on the sides of the branches
    Leaf scar arrangement
    there is one leaf scar per node on the stem or twig
    Superposed buds
    there are no superposed buds on the branch
    Winter bud scales
    the winter bud is naked (not covered with scales)
  • Flowers
    Enlarged sterile flowers
    there are no enlarged sterile flowers on the plant
    Flower appearance
    • the flowers appear after the leaves have appeared
    • the flowers appear at the same time as the leaves
    • the flowers appear before the leaves
    Flower petal color
    yellow or green
    Flower symmetry
    there are two or more ways to evenly divide the flower (the flower is radially symmetrical)
    Hairs on ovary (Amelanchier)
    NA
    Hypanthium present
    the flower does not have a hypanthium
    Inflorescence position
    the inflorescences grow on the twigs
    Inflorescence type
    • the flowers grow out of the axil (point where a branch or leaf is attached to the main stem)
    • the inflorescence is a fascicle (compact cluster of flowers)
    • the inflorescence is a spike (a long unbranched stem with flowers along it that lack stalks)
    • the inflorescence is an ament (catkin; slender, usually pendulous inflorescence with crowded unisexual flowers)
    Number of pistils
    1
    Ovary position
    the ovary is above the point of petal and/or sepal attachment
    Petal and sepal arrangement
    the flower includes two cycles of petal- or sepal-like structures
    Petal appearance
    the petals are thin and delicate, and pigmented (colored other than green or brown)
    Petal fusion
    the perianth parts are separate
    Sepal appearance
    the sepals resemble leaves in color and texture
    Sepal cilia (Ilex)
    NA
    Sepal tip glands
    there are no glands at the tips of the sepal lobes
    Sepals fused only to sepals
    the sepals are fused to each other (not other flower parts), at least near their bases
    Stamen number
    5
    Stamen position relative to petals
    the stamens are lined up with the petals (antepetalous)
    Stamens fused
    the stamens are not fused to one another
  • Fruits or seeds
    Berry color
    red
    Fruit tissue origin
    there are no flower parts that form part of the fruit
    Fruit type (general)
    the fruit is dry but does not split open when ripe
    Fruit type (specific)
    the fruit is a drupe (fleshy, with a firm inner ovary wall that encloses a single seed)
    Nut with spines (Fagaceae)
    NA
    Wings on fruit
    there are no wings on the fruit
  • Glands or sap
    Sap color
    the sap is thick and colored
    Stalked glands on fruit (Rosa)
    NA
  • Growth form
    Growth form
    the plant is a shrub (i.e., a woody plant with several stems growing from the base)
  • Leaves
    Hairs on underside of leaf blade
    • the underside of the leaf has hairs on it
    • the underside of the leaf has no hairs
    Hairs on upper side of leaf blade
    • the upper side of the leaf is fuzzy or hairy
    • the upper side of the leaf is not hairy, or has very few hairs
    Leaf blade base shape
    • the base of the leaf blade is cuneate (wedge-shaped, tapers to the base with relatively straight, converging edges), or narrow
    • the base of the leaf blade is rounded
    Leaf blade base symmetry
    the leaf blade base is symmetrical
    Leaf blade bloom
    the underside of the leaf has no noticeable bloom
    Leaf blade edges
    the edge of the leaf blade has teeth
    Leaf blade edges (Acer)
    NA
    Leaf blade flatness
    the leaf is flat (planar) at the edges
    Leaf blade hairs
    the hairs on the leaf blade are different from the choices given
    Leaf blade scales
    there are no scales on the leaf blades
    Leaf blade shape
    • the leaf blade is obovate (egg-shaped, but with the widest point above the middle of the leaf blade)
    • the leaf blade is ovate (widest below the middle and broadly tapering at both ends)
    Leaf blade texture
    the leaf blade is herbaceous (has a leafy texture)
    Leaf blade translucent dots
    there are no translucent dots on the leaf blade
    Leaf blade vein pattern
    the main veins of the leaf blade are pinnate (the secondary veins branch off at intervals from the main central vein) and non-arcuate (not arched towards the leaf tip)
    Leaf blade veins
    the leaf blade has one main vein running from the base toward the tip
    Leaf duration
    the leaves drop off in winter (or they wither but persist on the plant)
    Leaf form
    the plant is broad-leaved (with broadly flattened leaf blades)
    Leaf lobe tips (Quercus)
    NA
    Leaf midrib glands
    the midrib of the leaf blade lacks glands on the upper surface
    Leaf stalk
    the leaves have leaf stalks
    Leaf stalk attachment to leaf
    the petiole attaches at the basal margin of the leaf blade
    Leaf stalk nectaries
    there are no nectaries on the leaf stalk
    Leaf stalk shape
    the leaf stalk is not flattened
    Leaf teeth
    • the edge of the leaf blade is entire (has no teeth or lobes)
    • the leaf blade margin is crenate (with rounded teeth) or crenulate (with tiny, rounded teeth)
    • the leaf blade margin is serrate (with forward-pointing) or dentate (with outward-pointing) with medium-sized to coarse teeth
    Leaf teeth hairs (Carya)
    NA
    Leaf type
    the leaf blade is compound (i.e., made up of two or more discrete leaflets
    Leaves per node
    there is one leaf per node along the stem
    Specific leaf type
    the leaf is compound, with three leaflets
    Stipules
    there are no stipules on the plant, or they fall off as the leaf expands
  • Place
    Habitat
    terrestrial
    New England state
    • Connecticut
    • Massachusetts
    • Vermont
    Specific habitat
    • cliffs, balds, or ledges
    • ridges or ledges
    • woodlands
  • Scent
    Plant odor
    the plant has a pleasantly aromatic odor
  • Stem, shoot, branch
    Aerial roots
    the plant has no aerial roots
    Bark texture
    • the bark of an adult plant is thin and smooth
    • the bark of an adult plant peels off easily or hangs off
    Branch brittleness (willows only)
    NA
    Branch cross-section
    the branch is circular in cross-section, or it has five or more sides, so that there are no sharp angles
    First-year cane (Rubus)
    NA
    Lenticels on twigs
    there are no lenticels on the twigs, or they are very hard to see
    Short shoots
    there are no peg- or knob-like shoots present
    Twig bloom
    there is no bloom on the twig
    Twig hairs
    the twigs have hairs, but the hairs do not have glands
    Twig papillae (Vaccinium species only)
    NA
    Twig scales
    there are no scales on the twig surface
    Twig winter color
    • brown
    • gray
    • red
    Wings on branch
    the branch does not have wings on it
    armature on plant
    the plant does not have spines, prickles, or thorns

Wetland Status

Occurs only in non-wetlands. (Wetland indicator code: UPL)

New England Distribution and Conservation Status

Distribution

Connecticut
present
Maine
absent
Massachusetts
present
New Hampshire
present
Rhode Island
absent
Vermont
present

Conservation Status

Exact status definitions can vary from state to state. For details, please check with your state.

Connecticut
historical (S-rank: SH), special concern, extirpated (code: SC*)
Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR)
Vermont
uncommon (S-rank: S3)

var. aromatica

Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR)
New Hampshire
unrankable (S-rank: SU), Ind (code: Ind)

Native to North America?

Yes

Synonyms

  • Rhus canadensis Marsh.
  • Schmaltzia aromatica Desv.
  • Schmaltzia crenata (P. Mill.) Greene
  • Toxicodendron crenatum P. Mill.

Family

Anacardiaceae

Genus

Rhus

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Information from Dichotomous Key of Flora Novae Angliae

1.  Rhus aromatica Ait. var. aromatica n

Fragrant sumac. Rhus canadensis Marsh.; Schmaltzia crenata (P. Mill.) Greene; S. aromatica Desv.; Toxicodendron crenatum P. Mill. • CT, MA, VT; also reported from NH by Kartesz (1999), but specimens are unknown. Woodlands, ledges, and balds. This species occurs (or occurred) as a native in CT and VT and is considered introduced to MA.