Anacardiaceae (Sumac) Family
Plant is an upright large shrub or small tree with an open, flattened crown of a few stout, spreading branches and whitish sap. Average height is 20 feet with a trunk diameter of about four inches. Preferred habitat is roadsides, thin woods, margin of old fields and flood plains. Distribution is throughout the Escambia region.
Leaves are elongated and made up of small leaflets along
both sides of a single leaf stalk; 11-31 leaflets; each being
one to three inches long; lance-shaped; saw-toothed; almost stalkless;
shiny green above and whitish below; turning scarlet in
Flowers are small; five whitish petals; crowded into large clusters at the end of a stem; cluster measures about eight inches long. Male and female flowers are usually on separate plants. Flowering occurs in the spring and fruit is matured in the summer.
Fruit is a one-seeded drupe also clustered in large bundles at the same location as the previous flower cluster; dark red, maturing in autumn and persisting during winter months.
Smooth Sumac is the only shrub or tree species native to all 48 contiguous states. In pioneer times raw young sprouts were eaten by Native Americans as a salad. The sour fruit, mostly seed, can be chewed to quench thirst or may be prepared as a drink similar to lemonade. It is also consumed by birds and small mammals of many kinds. Deer browse the twigs and fruit throughout the year.