Rhus copallina L. - Winged Sumac

Rhus copallina plant

Family - Anacardiaceae

Stems - Woody, single or multiple from base, branching, to 3m tall, reddish, glabrate, with lenticels. New seasons growth puberulent to tomentose.

Rhus copallina stem

Leaves - Alternate, odd-pinnate, petiolate. Petiole reddish above(adaxially), green below(abaxially), puberulent to tomentose, to 6cm long. Rachis between leaflets winged. Wings to 4mm broad, shiny green. Leaflets 5-11, sessile, elliptic-lanceolate, entire, acute to acuminate, often slightly oblique at base, puberulent on midrib and veins above, pubescent below, deep green above, dull green below, to +7cm long, +3.5cm broad. Terminal leaflet sometimes divided, abruptly contracted at base and appearing to have a petiolule.

Rhus copallina leafAdaxial surface of leaf.

Rhus copallina leafAbaxial surface of leaf.

Inflorescence - Terminal thryse to +15cm long. Axis and branches of thryse tomentose. Plants polygamodioecious.

Flowers - Petals 5, greenish-yellow, 2.1m long, 1.2mm broad, with minutely ciliolate margins, spreading to reflexed. Sepals 5, pubescent, broadly ovate, green, 1mm long, 1mm broad. Pistillate flowers - Style 3-parted, .5mm long, yellow, thick, sparse pubescent. Stigmas capitate, yellow-orange. Ovary globose, tomentose to puberulent, .9mm in diameter. Staminal vestiges often present in pistillate flowers. Staminate flowers - Stamens 5, erect, exserted, alternating with petals. Filaments white, to 1.5mm long. Anthers yellow-orange, 1mm long. Drupes to 4mm in diameter, reddish, with simple and glandular pubescence.

Rhus copallina flowersPistillate flowers.

Rhus copallina flowersStaminate flowers close-up.

Flowering - May - November.

Habitat - Prairies, thickets, open woods, glades, roadsides, railroads.

Origin - Native to U.S.

Other info. - This species is common throughout most of Missouri with the exception of most of the northern counties. The plant is easy to ID in the field because of its winged leaves and the fact that it is a more compact species than any other Rhus in this state. The leaves turn a brilliant crimson red in the fall. Like many of the genus, this plant was used by indians to treat ailments such as dysentery and mouth sores.

Photographs taken at Dave Rock Conservation Area, St. Clair County, MO., 7-27-00, and at Logan Creek, Reynolds County, MO., 7-3-04.