Rhus copallina (Flameleaf Sumac, Shining Sumac, Dwarf Sumac) is a deciduous shrub native to eastern North America. It belongs to the Anacardiaceae family, which includes other sumac species.
Flameleaf Sumac typically grows to a height of 6 to 12 feet (1.8 to 3.6 meters) with a spreading, open form. It has compound leaves with several leaflets, ranging from 9 to 21 leaflets per leaf. The foliage is known for its brilliant fall colors, which can include shades of red, orange, and yellow, hence the name "Flameleaf Sumac."
In late spring to early summer, the shrub produces clusters of small, greenish-yellow flowers. These flowers are followed by clusters of small, round, hairy fruit called drupes. The drupes mature into a reddish color and can persist on the plant through winter, providing food for birds.
Flameleaf Sumac is adaptable to a variety of soil conditions, including sandy or rocky soils, and it can tolerate both moist and dry conditions. It prefers full sun but can also tolerate partial shade. The plant is well-known for its ability to thrive in poor or disturbed soils and is often found in open woodlands, fields, or along roadsides.
In landscaping, Flameleaf Sumac is valued for its ornamental qualities, particularly its vibrant fall foliage. It can be used as a specimen plant, in mass plantings, or as part of native or wildlife gardens. Its spreading nature makes it suitable for erosion control on slopes. However, it should be noted that Flameleaf Sumac can spread through underground rhizomes, and care should be taken to prevent it from invading undesired areas.
Flameleaf Sumac is generally considered non-toxic, but it's always advisable to wear gloves when handling any plant and to take precautions if you have known allergies or sensitivities.