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Rhus (Sumach)


A genus of deciduous trees and shrubs belonging to Anarcardiaceae. Some have large and handsome, pinnate leaves, others have small, ternate, or ovate leaves. A few have ornamental fruits, and the foliage of several colours brilliantly in autumn.

Some of the pinnate-leaved ones, such as Rhus typhina, may be kept to a single stem and cut down to the ground annually; they will then, if planted in rich soil, make enormous leaves, which are very effective for the subtropical garden. As a rule, the best colour in autumn is obtained from specimens growing in poor soil. Propagation is effected by means of seeds or root cuttings. For ordinary purposes the most useful are:

Rhus cotinoides, the Chittam Wood of the southern United States. This is a shrub 8 feet high, with oval leaves which colour brilliantly in autumn. The colour is best when the plant is growing in poor soil.

Rhus Cotinus, the Venetian Sumach, a dense shrub, 10 feet high, with small, oval leaves and curious, cloudy-looking heads of fruit.

Rhus glabra, the Smooth Sumach of the United States, grows 12 or 15 feet high, and has large, pinnate leaves. The variety Rhus laciniata has prettily cut foliage.

Rhus Osbeckii is a native of China and Japan. It has large, pinnate leaves with winged midribs.

Rhus Toxicodendron, the Poison Ivy or Poison Oak of North America and Japan, has large, ternate leaves, which colour well in autumn. It is a dangerous subject to plant, as contact between any portion of the plant and the bare skin causes poisoning.

Rhus typhina, the Staghorn Sumach of the eastern United States, forms a small tree with handsome, pinnate leaves and upright spikes of red fruit.