Rhus typhina (Staghorn Sumac)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Anacardiaceae (Sumac)
Life cycle:perennial woody
Habitat:part shade, sun; dry to average moisture; forest edges, clearings, prairies, old fields, along roadsides, railroads, shores
Bloom season:June - July
Plant height:up to 35 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:none
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Cluster type: panicle

[photo of flowers] Pyramidal, branching cluster of short-stalked flowers at the tips of branches, with male and female flowers on separate plants and the clusters of male flowers rather larger than those with female flowers. Flowers are less than ¼ inch across with 5 yellowish to greenish petals. Male flowers are slightly larger than female flowers and have 5 yellow-tipped stamens; female flowers have a 3-parted style in the center. The calyx cupping the flower has 5 pointed lobes about as long as the petals. Flower stalks and the calyx are densely covered in short hairs.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: compound

[photo of leaves] Leaves are alternate, up to 18 inches long, compound with 9 to 27 leaflets. Leaflets are generally lance-oblong, 2¼ to 5 inches long, about 1 inch wide, sharply toothed around the edges, with a short taper to a pointed tip, and rounded at the stalkless base. The upper surface is dark green and hairless or sparsely hairy, the lower is paler in color and hairy, especially along the midvein. Leaf stalks are green to reddish and densely covered in short, fine hairs. Leaves turn bright red in fall.

[photo of twig and branch buds] Twigs are velvety, densely covered in soft hairs, green the first year, turning brown the second, the hairs persisting for several years.

[photo of trunks] Older bark is thin, gray to gray-brown, with scattered, horizontal pores. Trunks are up to 8 inches diameter at breast height (dbh). Stems are single and not heavily branched. Large colonies can be formed from root suckers.

Fruit: Fruit type: berry/drupe

[photo of fruit] The female flower clusters form a tight cluster of round, fuzzy, berry-like drupes, each less than ¼ inch in diameter and containing a single seed. Fruit ripens to deep red and may persist through winter and into the next season.


Staghorn Sumac, known in some references by the synonym Rhus hirta, gets its common name from the coarse branches covered with fine hairs that resemble deer antlers in velvet. The hairy branches and fuzzy fruit distinguish it from everything else. A larger shrub than Smooth Sumac (Rhus glabra), it is not as widespread in Minnesota, more associated with our southeast woodlands than the open prairie preferred by Smooth Sumac. Staghorn Sumac also can form large colonies from aggressive root suckers, something too many homeowners have discovered after buying one of the horticultural varieties offered in the garden trade. Like Smooth Sumac, it is not poisonous and the bristly red hair covering on the seed clusters are filled with tart ascorbic acid, that are easily rendered into a sumac-ade drink - just a little sugar required.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Ramsey County. Other photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Maggi S - My yard and the hillsides of Le Sueur
on: 2017-08-03 16:34:36

I've had this growing out back on the 5 acres that I live on, and I purposely planted it on my hillside because I wanted it to spread- can't mow the hill anyway. Le Sueur county sprays everything, this and milkweed included. Is sumac considered an invasive species?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2017-08-04 18:00:59

Maggi, sumac is native. Natives aren't generally considered "invasive", but some require more control measures than others in planted populations. Likewise, the suppression of fire management in natural areas has allowed woody species (like sumac) to run unchecked and encroach on wetlands and prairies.

Posted by: Kipp H - St.Paul Minnesota
on: 2017-11-12 07:09:34

I live near the area as well of Shepard Rd. There's tons of Sumac growing all along Shepard Rd. I do know as well as the white sumac are poisonous but not the reddish brown color sumac are not poisonous. So otherwise what I would like to able to know that is the reddish brown color sumac are naturally Caffeine Free or not naturally Caffeine Free.? This would be a great deal of help.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2017-11-12 09:29:35

Kipp, we have no idea whether sumac has any caffeine or not but our guess is not.

Posted by: Susan G - Rochester, MN
on: 2018-05-14 08:04:59

Tiger Eye staghorn sumac suckers are trying to take over the bed the landscaper planted them in. What is your best advice?

Posted by: Barb Omarzu - Two Harbors
on: 2019-04-27 12:16:00

Hello, I live in Two Harbors. There is some sumac spreading through the woods in our yard. There is a mix of cedar, birch, balsam and spruce. As the spruce are dying and the area is opening up, the sumac is growing more aggressively. I don't know if it is native or some kind of a nursery plant gone rouge. Any ideas? It is just starting to leaf out now. It gets about 5 ft. Tall. The buds are alternating on smooth whip like stems and branching out to 6 or more little red fronds.

Posted by: Linda H - Columbia Heights
on: 2020-10-02 14:56:34

We would like Sumac on the hill in our backyard because of its fall color and because we'd like not to have to mow the hill.. Is this a good idea? Any better suggestion?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2020-10-02 15:50:03

Linda, sumac will spread so be prepared to manage it. You could also plant a native prairie seed mix of forbs and grasses, which would serve a wider variety of insects and wildlife than just sumac and also be good for erosion control. Sumac and prairie go together pretty well if the sumac doesn't get out of hand.

Posted by: Rebecca - Saint Cloud
on: 2022-07-31 02:45:10

i think i spotted some of these within the forest in the Sauk River Regional Park the other day. took a picture of one but they are all sprawled out in the area.

Posted by: Susan T - Shorewood
on: 2023-03-16 08:16:18

I'm in Shorewood near Chanhassen. Staghorn Sumac found its way to a hosta bed next to my garage and it has spread. It's actually a lovely addition to that bed, but I have to manage the suckers that jump out of the bed and into the lawn.

Posted by: Andy - Minneapolis
on: 2023-06-03 14:22:41

Three Staghorn Sumac plants showed up here this Spring--two in the boulevard and one across the sidewalk. Super-furry stems and, until just recently, bronze-tinged leaves. They're in part-shade, at the canopy edge of an old bur oak. One is already about 2' tall. With some pruning, they may grow/spread into interesting shrubs/trees/hedges. Looking forward to trying sumac-ade in a few years.

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