Factsheet S26: Rhus species – the sumachs


Sumachs (also spelt sumacs) are deciduous or evergreen trees, shrubs and climbers, mostly from the subtropics and tropics, with some 250 species in total. They are often grown ornamentally for their striking foliage and rich red autumn colours.
The genus Rhus contains many useful trees and shrubs, some of which are very poisonous. The poisonous species are sometimes separated into their own genus, Toxicodendron, and can cause severe skin irritation from the sap; they are listed in a separate section below for reference, but should not be cultivated unless you are sure you want them, and that you can stop them spreading. It is fairly easy to distinguish the poisonous species: they have panicles of flowers & fruits arising from leaf axils, and the fruits are smooth, whereas non-poisonous species have compound terminal panicles and fruits covered with acid crimson hairs.

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