Smooth Sumac - Rhus glabra
Smooth sumac is a small, deciduous tree that has pyramid-shaped clusters of red berries in late summer. The species grows in all 48 contiguous states and is suitable for cultivation in Hardiness Zones 3 through 9. Smooth sumac trees are drought tolerate, pest resistant and typically disease free.
Smooth sumac grows well in a variety of soil types, including dry, sandy and moist soil, but thrives in dry, sandy soil or well-draining, gravely soil. This winter-hardy tree grows best in locations with with full or partial sun exposure. Smooth sumac is fast-growing species, and colonies of smooth sumac form quickly when the underground suckers are left undisturbed.
In landscaping, the smooth sumac has a variety of uses. The wide, bushy canopy and tendency to form dense colonies make the tree ideal for privacy hedges and windbreaks, while the picturesque combinations of orange, red and purple foliage in autumn give the tree ornamental value. Smooth sumac also has wide, shallow branches that help control erosion on sloped land, embankments or other erosion-prone areas.
Mature smooth sumac trees reach 10 to 15 feet high and have a wide, bushy canopy that is 10 to 15 feet wide. From June through July, clusters of light green flowers form on the tips of the branches. During late summer, the flowers mature into drupes. Drupes are rust-colored fruits that form tight, cone-shaped clusters on the ends of the branches. Drupes often remain on the tree through winter.
The bark on the tree's lower trunk is dark grey and appears flaky, while upper branches are smooth and reddish-brown. Smooth sumacs have multiple trunks, and new branches grow from the lateral branches rather than from the central trunk. The tree has compound, alternate leaves with long tips and serrated edges. In winter, the tree is identifiable by its crooked central trunk and sympodial branching.