Rhus trilobata (Skunk bush Sumac) is a deciduous shrub native to western North America. It belongs to the Anacardiaceae family, which includes other sumac species.
Skunkbush Sumac is known for its distinctive fragrance, which some describe as resembling the scent of a skunk. The shrub typically grows to a height of 3 to 6 feet (1 to 2 meters) and has a spreading, bushy form. The branches are densely covered with trifoliate leaves.
The leaves of Skunkbush Sumac are divided into three leaflets, each with lobed edges. The foliage has a green color in the spring and summer, turning shades of yellow, orange, or red in the fall, providing attractive autumn colors.
In late spring to early summer, the shrub produces small, yellowish-green flowers that are not particularly showy. However, they are followed by clusters of fruit called drupes, which are round and covered with fine hairs. The drupes start green and eventually turn a reddish-brown color, adding visual interest to the plant.
Skunkbush Sumac is adapted to arid and semi-arid environments, often found in dry open areas, slopes, or rocky soils. It is known for its ability to withstand harsh conditions, including drought and poor soil. The plant can spread through underground rhizomes, forming colonies over time.
While Skunkbush Sumac may not be as commonly used in landscaping as some other ornamental plants, it can be utilized for erosion control, habitat restoration, or naturalized areas. Its spreading habit and fall color make it suitable for informal or wilder garden settings.
It's worth noting that Skunkbush Sumac should be planted with caution, as the plant can cause skin irritation or allergic reactions in some individuals. It is advisable to wear gloves when handling the plant.