Common Name : staghorn sumac
Scientific Name : Rhus hirta, Rhus typhina
Zone : 3 to 8
Height : 15 to 25 feet
Width : 20 to 30 feet
Easily grown in average, dry to medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Tolerant of a wide range of soils except for those that are poorly drained. Generally tolerant of urban conditions. This is a suckering shrub that will form thickets in the wild via self-seeding and root suckering.
Staghorn sumac is the largest of the North American sumacs. It is native to woodland edges, roadsides, railroad embankments and stream/swamp margins from Quebec to Ontario to Minnesota south to Georgia, Indiana and Iowa. This is an open, spreading shrub (sometimes a small tree) that typically grows 15-25’ tall. It is particularly noted for the reddish-brown hairs that cover the young branchlets in somewhat the same way that velvet covers the horns of a stag (male deer), hence the common name. It is also noted for its ornamental fruiting clusters and excellent fall foliage color. Large, compound, odd-pinnate leaves (each to 24” long) are bright green above during the growing season and glaucous beneath. Leaves turn attractive shades of yellow/orange/red in autumn. Each leaf has 13-27 toothed, lanceolate-oblong leaflets (each to 2-5” long). Tiny, greenish-yellow flowers bloom in terminal cone-shaped panicles in late spring to early summer (June-July), with male and female flower cones primarily occurring on separate plants (dioecious). Female flowers produce showy pyramidal fruiting clusters (to 8” long), with each cluster containing numerous hairy, berry-like drupes which ripen bright red in autumn, gradually turning dark red as they persist through much of the winter. Fruit is attractive to wildlife. Staghorn sumac is also sometimes commonly called velvet sumac, fuzzy sumac and hairy sumac. Typhina means “like Typha” (cattail plant) in reference to the velvety young branches.
No serious insect or disease problems. Some susceptibility to leaf spots, rusts, powdery mildew, blister and cankers. Scale, aphids and caterpillars may appear. Watch for mites. May spread aggressively by root suckers.
Best for dry, informal, naturalized areas where it can be allowed to spread and form colonies. Effective when massed on slopes for erosion control or in hard-to-cover areas with poorer soils. Naturalize in open woodland areas, wood margins or wild areas. Has some nice ornamental features (flower panicles in spring, shiny dark green summer foliage, fruiting clusters in fall and excellent fall foliage color), but is probably too weedy and aggressive for shrub borders or foundations.