Rhus typhina (staghorn sumac)
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature
- Plant Type
- Distribution Table
- History of Introduction and Spread
- Risk of Introduction
- Habitat List
- Biology and Ecology
- Air Temperature
- Rainfall Regime
- Soil Tolerances
- Natural enemies
- Notes on Natural Enemies
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Pathway Causes
- Impact Summary
- Environmental Impact
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Uses List
- Wood Products
- Similarities to Other Species/Conditions
- Prevention and Control
- Links to Websites
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Rhus typhina L., 1756
Preferred Common Name
- staghorn sumac
Other Scientific Names
- Datisca hirta L., 1753
- Rhus hirta (L.) Sudw., 1892
International Common Names
- English: vinegarplant
- Spanish: zumaque de Virginia
- French: sumac de Virginie
Local Common Names
- Germany: Essigbaum; Kolben- Sumach
- Italy: sommacco americano
- Netherlands: azijnboom
- USA: scarlet sumac; upland sumac; velvet sumac
- RHUTY (Rhus typhina)
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
R. typhina thrives in a variety of habitats, including disturbed sites, such as old field margins, roadsides, and fence rows. It also grows singly or in large colonies on the edge of wooded areas or more commonly on dry rocky soil along ditch banks and abandoned fields (Doust and Doust, 1988). R. typhina sprouts easily and grows rapidly, which can eliminate or reduce the abundance of many other species that cannot persist in the shade it creates. For this reason it has been identified as a weed or invasive in the USA (Uva et al., 1997; USDA-NRCS, 2009) and in the Czech Republic (Mollerova, 2005).
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Spermatophyta
- Subphylum: Angiospermae
- Class: Dicotyledonae
- Order: Sapindales
- Family: Anacardiaceae
- Genus: Rhus
- Species: Rhus typhina
Notes on Taxonomy and NomenclatureTop of page
The genus Rhus consists of ca. 200 to 250 species (Wannan and Quinn, 1991). In North America, the genus Rhus is divided into two subgenera: the poisonous and the non-poisonous. The poisonous group contains poison oak (Rhus toxicodendron), Western poison oak (Rhus diversiloba), poison ivy (Rhus radicans), and poison sumac (Rhus vernix) [Toxicodendron vernix]; all of which contain a virulent, but selective contact poison called urushiol and produce poisonous white berries. Among the non-poisonous are the fragrant sumac (Rhus aromatica), dwarf or winged sumac (Rhus copallina), smooth sumac (Rhus glabra), lemonade bush (Rhus integrifolia), southweatern sumac (Rhus microphylla), sugar bush (Rhus ovata), squaw berry (Rhus trilobata), and the staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina); all of which contain red berries when ripe (and are sometimes inaccurately and collectively called red sumac). In China, the genus Rhus only has six other species, which are all very morphologically different from R. typhina.
DescriptionTop of page
R. typhina is a large, deciduous shrub to small tree, native to Canada and the USA, which can attain a height of 30-35 feet. Its root systems tend to be shallow and wide-spreading. It has pinnate leaves that can grow 12 to 24 inches long and are composed of many paired 2- to 5-inch-long leaflets, with a single terminal leaflet. The leaflets are dark-green and smooth above, and pale beneath, except along the midrib, turning bright colours before falling off in the autumn. The appearance of its branched stems, which are covered with soft hairs, resembles that of deer antlers. Compact clusters of greenish-yellow flowers bloom from June to July. Fruit is produced on plants 3 to 4 years old, maturing from August to September. The fruiting head is a compact cluster of round, red, hairy fruits called drupes. Each drupe measures ¼ inch in diameter and contains one seed. Each cluster of drupes may contain 100 to 700 seeds. There are about 60,000 seeds per pound. Because most populations of R. typhina are dioecious, with male and female flowers on separate plants, only the female plants produce seeds. Occasionally, plants are found which have both male and female flowers. The germination of its seeds is enhanced by their passage through the digestive system of rabbits, ring-necked pheasants, and quail. The presence of fire also encourages increased germination (USDA-NRCS, 2009).
Plant TypeTop of page Broadleaved
DistributionTop of page
R. typhina is a native of eastern USA and north Canada, with a current range extending north to Quebec, south to Georgia, and as far west as Iowa (USDA-NRCS, 2009). As an ornamental, it has been deliberately introduced to many countries in Europe and Asia, such as Germany (Boyle et al., 2008), Switzerland (Lenzin et al., 2004), Austria (Essl, 2008), the Czech Republic (Mollerova, 2005), Korea (Kim and Chung, 1995) and China (Pan and You, 1994).
Distribution TableTop of page
The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|China||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-Beijing||Widespread||Introduced||1959||Invasive||Wang et al., 2008|
|-Hebei||Widespread||Introduced||Invasive||Zhang et al., 2004|
|-Heilongjiang||Present||Introduced||Not invasive||Wang, 1992|
|-Jilin||Present||Introduced||Not invasive||Zhao et al., 1994|
|-Nei Menggu||Present||Introduced||1964||Not invasive||Zhang and Liu, 1994|
|-Ningxia||Present||Introduced||Not invasive||Zhao, 2006|
|-Shaanxi||Present||Introduced||Kang et al., 2005|
|-Shandong||Widespread||Introduced||Invasive||Li et al., 2004|
|-Shanxi||Present||Introduced||Not invasive||Wei and Liu, 2001|
|-Sichuan||Present||Introduced||Not invasive||Wang, 2001|
|-Tianjin||Present||Introduced||1995||Zhang and Wang, 1997|
|-Xinjiang||Present||Introduced||1975||Not invasive||Zhu, 1982|
|Korea, Republic of||Present||Introduced||Kim and Chung, 1995|
|Canada||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|USA||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-New Hampshire||Widespread||Native||USDA-NRCS, 2009|
|-New Jersey||Widespread||Native||USDA-NRCS, 2009|
|-New York||Widespread||Native||USDA-NRCS, 2009|
|-North Carolina||Absent, intercepted only||Native||USDA-NRCS, 2009|
|-Rhode Island||Widespread||Native||USDA-NRCS, 2009|
|-South Carolina||Localised||Native||USDA-NRCS, 2009|
|Czech Republic||Widespread||Introduced||Invasive||Möllerová, 2005|
|Germany||Widespread||Introduced||Boyle et al., 2008|
|Hungary||Present||Introduced||Pan and You, 1994|
|Switzerland||Present||Introduced||Not invasive||Lenzin et al., 2004|
History of Introduction and SpreadTop of page
R. typhina has been cultivated in Europe for centuries as an ornamental, prized for its vivid autumn foliage and distinctive fruit. In the Czech Republic, it has been listed as a main invasive woody species (Mollerova, 2005). In 1959, it was introduced to China from Hungary (Pan and You, 1994). Used for rehabilitation of degraded lands and as an ornamental, it has been spreading all over the Yellow River basin with intentional introduction. It is now considered an invasive species in some provinces in China (Wang et al., 2008).
IntroductionsTop of page
Risk of IntroductionTop of page
At a local level in its native range, the seeds of R. typhina may disperse via birds (Foster and Gross, 1999; USDA-NRCS, 2009). The long distance spreading is mainly dependent on the deliberate introduction for ornamental and rehabilitation purposes. For this reason, the introduction of R. typhina could be easily controlled.
HabitatTop of page
R. typhina generally prefers fertile, upland sites, but tolerates a wide variety of conditions. It is tolerant of slightly acid soil conditions and textures ranging from coarse to fine. Typical growing sites include open fields and roadsides, fence rows, railroad rights-of-way, and burned areas. It also thrives in polluted city air, and grows in such inhospitable sites as cracks in the pavement. R. typhina is not highly shade-tolerant and is considered to be an early successional species (USDA-NRCS, 2009).
Habitat ListTop of page
|Terrestrial – Managed||Cultivated / agricultural land||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Managed forests, plantations and orchards||Secondary/tolerated habitat||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Disturbed areas||Principal habitat||Natural|
|Disturbed areas||Principal habitat||Productive/non-natural|
|Rail / roadsides||Principal habitat||Natural|
|Rail / roadsides||Principal habitat||Productive/non-natural|
|Urban / peri-urban areas||Secondary/tolerated habitat||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Urban / peri-urban areas||Secondary/tolerated habitat||Productive/non-natural|
|Buildings||Present, no further details|
|Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-natural||Natural forests||Present, no further details|
|Riverbanks||Present, no further details|
|Rocky areas / lava flows||Secondary/tolerated habitat||Natural|
|Rocky areas / lava flows||Secondary/tolerated habitat||Productive/non-natural|
|Scrub / shrublands||Secondary/tolerated habitat||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Scrub / shrublands||Secondary/tolerated habitat||Natural|
|Scrub / shrublands||Secondary/tolerated habitat||Productive/non-natural|
|Arid regions||Secondary/tolerated habitat||Natural|
|Arid regions||Secondary/tolerated habitat||Productive/non-natural|
|Coastal areas||Present, no further details|
|Coastal dunes||Present, no further details|
Biology and EcologyTop of page
Chromosome number (2n) = 30 (Missouri Botanical Garden, 2010). See Coombes (1994) for further information on the genetics of this species. This paper describes the botanical characteristics, nomenclature and origins of R. typhina.
R. typhina can reproduce sexually by producing seeds or asexually by rhizomatous growth. Its seed germination rate is less than 20% due to a water-impermeable endocarp. Treatment with gibberellic acid (GA) (0-1000 mg/l) or cold stratification (0-30 days at 4°C) can improve germination (Norton, 1985). Under natural conditions, the germination of its seeds can be enhanced by passage through the digestive system of rabbits, ring-necked pheasants and quail, or encouraged by the presence of fire (Izhaki et al., 1992; USDA-NRCS, 2009). In China, reproduction is mainly via rhizomes (horizontal underground stems). With the spreading of rhizomes, an area can become populated by many related plants, with overlapping crowns that give the appearance of a dense colony, with an extensive rounded or flat top. As colonies enlarge, older plants tend to be located in the centre and younger plants emerge around the ever-expanding perimeter.
R. typhina has a low nitrogen and soluble sugar content and high tannin content (Li et al., 2007). This high antifeedant activity could distinctly inhibit the survival and fecundity of many insects, especially spider mites [Tetranychidae].
R. typhina has a distinctive biomass allocation and growth strategy. The stem of the clonal ramet and the front part of the lateral root belong to the dominant and subdominant growth and the storage centre of photosynthetic products (Zhang et al., 2005, 2008). The front part of the lateral root diameter is twice as large as the back. This asymmetry of diameter of the clonal ramet root becomes more significant with increasing age and has little correlation to topography (Zhang et al., 2004). Such pattern of biomass enables R. typhina to reproduce in a short time. As for newly emerged clonal ramets, the growth rate of the lateral branch and leaf is much faster than the height, which facilitates clonal ramets of R. typhina to form a dominant synusium (Zhang et al., 2004). The clonal integration of R. typhina allow its ramets to be better adapted to weak light beneath its overstorey than other species such as Vitex negundo var. heterophylla, which further enhances its competition ability in the spreading area (Zhang et al., 2007).
R. typhina prefers a warm temperate climate, characterized by summer precipitation or a fully humid climate. In North America, its current range extends north to Quebec and south to Georgia, where mean annual temperature ranges from 4 to 18°C and the maximum temperature in the hottest month is from 22 to 34ºC. In China, its distribution area covers various climate types from a temperate continental arid to semi-arid climate, to a subtropical ocean climate, with an annual rainfall range from 300 to 1200 mm.
R. typhina has a low fertility requirement, that enables it to endure diverse soil types from coarse to fine. It prefers the medium textured soils, but is not adapted to fine textured soils. The pH value range it can endure varies from 4.5 to 7.2 (USDA-NRCS, 2009).
ClimateTop of page
|BS - Steppe climate||Tolerated||> 430mm and < 860mm annual precipitation|
|Cf - Warm temperate climate, wet all year||Preferred||Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, wet all year|
|Cw - Warm temperate climate with dry winter||Preferred||Warm temperate climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry winters)|
Air TemperatureTop of page
|Parameter||Lower limit||Upper limit|
|Absolute minimum temperature (ºC)||-36||-33|
|Mean annual temperature (ºC)||4||18|
|Mean maximum temperature of hottest month (ºC)||22||34|
|Mean minimum temperature of coldest month (ºC)||-18||0|
RainfallTop of page
|Parameter||Lower limit||Upper limit||Description|
|Dry season duration||9||0||number of consecutive months with <40 mm rainfall|
|Mean annual rainfall||300||1200||mm; lower/upper limits|
Rainfall RegimeTop of page Summer
Soil TolerancesTop of page
Special soil tolerances
Natural enemiesTop of page
|Natural enemy||Type||Life stages||Specificity||References||Biological control in||Biological control on|
|Botryosphaeria ribis||Pathogen||to species||Juhasova et al., 2005|
|Lygocoris communis||Herbivore||Adults||to species||Boivin and Stewart, 1982|
Notes on Natural EnemiesTop of page
R. typhina has a wide resistance to insects and diseases. R. typhina has a high antifeedant activity against spider mites [Tetranychidae] and may distinctly inhibit their survival and fecundity (Li et al., 2007). Lygocoris communis have been found on R. typhina (Boivin and Stewart, 1982). The fungus, Botryosphaeria ribis may cause damage to R. typhina (Juhasova et al., 2005).
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page
Natural dispersal of R. typhina is usually aided by birds or small animals such as ring-necked pheasants, rabbits, and quail, which may eat its seeds in winter. Passage through the digestive system of such organisms can encourage the germination of R. typhina seeds. The main dispersal manner, especially long distance, is the deliberate introduction as an ornamental or when used for soil protection and regeneration. In China, R. typhina has been dispersed all over the Yellow River basin since its initial introduction in 1959 (Pan and You, 1994). For example, it has been distributed to almost every scenic reserve and most nature reserves in Beijing (Wang et al., 2008).
Pathway CausesTop of page
|Botanical gardens and zoos||Yes||Yes|
|Digestion and excretion||Yes|
|Habitat restoration and improvement||Yes||Yes|
Impact SummaryTop of page
|Economic/livelihood||Positive and negative|
|Environment (generally)||Positive and negative|
Environmental ImpactTop of page
R. typhina can tolerate various habitats ranging from fine to coarse soil. Once established, stands will spread from the root sprouts. The lateral root system is extensive and spreads outwards 1 metre or more a year. This sprouting is encouraged by cutting or fire injury (Izhaki et al., 1992). For this reason, R. typhina can prevent water and soil erosion effectively on barren or rocky areas. In the degraded, hilly Taihang Mountains, China, the physical and chemical soil properties improved with the development of an R. typhina community. The soil fertility was increased, and the degraded ecological environment was significantly improved with the increase of R. typhina plantation age, which indicated its positive role in soil protection and regeneration (Fan et al., 2008). Due to the high water content and low calorific value of its leaf and stem, especially the high decomposition rate of its litters, R. typhina is also recommended as a good choice to build fire-resistant tree belts (Bo et al., 2007).
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page Invasiveness
- Invasive in its native range
- Proved invasive outside its native range
- Has a broad native range
- Abundant in its native range
- Highly adaptable to different environments
- Is a habitat generalist
- Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
- Pioneering in disturbed areas
- Long lived
- Fast growing
- Has high reproductive potential
- Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
- Reproduces asexually
- Damaged ecosystem services
- Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
- Modification of hydrology
- Modification of successional patterns
- Monoculture formation
- Negatively impacts agriculture
- Negatively impacts human health
- Reduced native biodiversity
- Soil accretion
- Threat to/ loss of native species
- Damages animal/plant products
- Causes allergic responses
- Competition - monopolizing resources
- Competition - shading
- Competition - smothering
- Induces hypersensitivity
- Rapid growth
- Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
- Difficult/costly to control
UsesTop of page
R. typhina can be used as a good honey plant (Liu, 2002). The small fruit of R. typhina are filled with a sour juice, rich in malic acid and tannin, which can be used to brew staghorn sumac wine, when the fruit is just turning red (Krause, 1982). Its high tannin content makes it an important source of tannin extract (Moerman, 1998). Its root, inner bark and central pith of the stem can also be used to produce dye (Moerman, 1998).
R. typhina may have medicinal value. For example, it is said that its bark can be used in the treatment of diarrhoea, fevers, piles, general debility, uterine prolapse etc. (Weiner, 1980; Foster and Duke, 1990). Other plant parts also have some medicinal value. It is often employed medicinally by several native North American Indian tribes who value it especially for its astringent qualities (Moerman, 1998). However, it is rarely used in modern herbal medicine.
Uses ListTop of page
- Erosion control or dune stabilization
- Landscape improvement
- Shade and shelter
- Soil conservation
- Soil improvement
- Botanical garden/zoo
Human food and beverage
- Honey/honey flora
- Source of medicine/pharmaceutical
Wood ProductsTop of page
- Tool handles
Similarities to Other Species/ConditionsTop of page
Rhus copallina (dwarf sumac) is similar in appearance to R. typhina, except its stems have raised dots and its leaflets have smooth edges. Rhus glabra (smooth sumac) can be distinguished from staghorn sumac by the lack of hairs on its stems and petioles. Naturally occurring crosses between staghorn and smooth sumac result in hybrid offspring with characteristics intermediate between those of both parents. Characteristics of Toxicodendron vernix (poison sumac), which causes dermatitis in sensitive individuals, distinguishing it from R. typhina are white hairless fruit, hairless stems, and smooth-edged leaves. Leaves of Ailanthus altissima (tree-of-heaven) are also compound, but their leaflets have one to two teeth located near the base compared to R. typhina leaflets that have numerous teeth all around the edge.
Prevention and ControlTop of page
Small populations can be kept under control by conducting prescribed burns every 3 to 4 years. Spring burns are conducted to stimulate herbaceous vegetation. Double-cutting at ground level (once in July and once in August) is another control strategy. Cutting may need to be repeated for several consecutive years to effectively control dense populations. Sumac will re-sprout after each cutting, but dense vegetation may prevent sumac from receiving enough sunlight, causing the leaves to turn yellow and eventually die.
During July and August a 20% concentration of glyphosate can be applied to freshly cut stumps. Oil-based triclopyr can be applied as directed on the label to the entire circumference of each stem of the clone; no cutting is carried out. Foliar application of water-based triclopyr as directed on the label or 1-2% solution of glyphosate can be applied in areas with little or no native vegetation. Another control measure is 41% amiton at 0.3 ml/m2 during July and August (Wu et al., 2007).
ReferencesTop of page
Boivin G; Stewart RK, 1982. The phenology and biological behaviour of five species of phytophagous mirids (Hemiptera: Miridae) in an apple orchard of south-western Quebec. (Phenologie et comportement biologique de cinq especes de mirides phytophages (Hemiptera: Miridae) dans une pommeraie du sud-ouest du Quebec.) Annals of the Entomological Society of Quebec, 27(3):148-157.
Fan W; Gao XR; Zhao D; Zhao H; Wan M; Qin GX, 2008. Research on species diversity and soil property change of Rhus typhina community in degraded hilly Taihang Mountain. Journal of Henan Agricultural University, 42(3):299-302.
Kang BW; Hou L; Wang DX; Liu JJ; Han LM, 2005. A Study on the Characteristics of Water Consumption by Transpiration of the Seedlings of main afforestation Tree Species. Journal of Northwest Forestry University, 20(1):29-23.
Zhang MR; Yu YW; Zhai MP; Yao J; Wang XY, 2007. Photosynthetic differences between understory clonal ramets of Rhus typhina and Vitex negundo var. heterophylla in Taihang Mountain area of China. Journal of Zhejiang Forestry College, 24(1):1-6.
ContributorsTop of page
15/07/09 Original text by:
Gao Ming Jiang, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100093, China
Guangmei Wang, Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China
Jingcheng Yang, Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Biosciences, China
Distribution MapsTop of page
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