Thursday, January 22, 2009

Sumac In A Winter Landscape

I do a lot of Genealogy research so while checking in on a local
cemetery, I noticed growing along the outer fence, on the bank area,
several Sumac bushes or trees.
Sumac trees do not generally impress me until Autumn when their
leaves turn bright orange and red.
But today,on what was a cloudy, dreary day, the deep red seed
heads were really very pretty. In the right area they would make
a beautiful winter contrast against a covering of snow.
These seed heads were holding up well as they have survived
the several snow and ice storms we have had so far this winter.

Smooth Bark (Rhus Glabra)

Researching the Sumac's that grow in Ohio, there are two
varieties, the smooth Bark Sumac and Staghorn.
I believe the one pictured is of the Smooth Bark variety, when
the seed heads were compared to pictures from the Ohio
Department of Natural Resources

The berries have very little pulp and are mostly seeds.
They are not the first choice for wildlife food, but birds and
animals will eat them when food supplies are exhausted.
They will grow in any type soil, even in dry gravely areas.
This would explain why they were growing so well on the bank
along the fence row which is right along the highway. The soil
there is hard, yellow, rocky clay and with the sloping hillside it
is very dry in the summer.
They are growing in full sun her but will grow in partial sun.

They spread by root suckers, seeds from the female shrubs,
and by sprawling lateral branches.
Because they will grow in full sun anywhere they are used
to control soil erosion.
Since they grow along roadsides they will with stand salt spray
as well as air pollutants.
They can stand up to cold weather and grown in zones 3 - 9.

Two warnings about using sumac as an ornamental:

Sumacs form a clump by sending up root suckers so there is
always a chance it will become invasive.
Sumacs have weak wood that breaks easily in severe weather.


Cinj said...

Lona- You're not kidding. We had some sumac at our old house and it was not pretty, the stuff popped up all over the place. It was really quite annoying. They are neat to look at though when you aren't a gardener trying to keep them from taking over the garden they're growing in.

Gail said...

Love these trees! Even with all there faults they are good looking. gail

gardenerprogress/Catherine said...

You always have the best nature pictures. I just love how those berries look hanging in the bare branches of the trees.

Teza said...

The clusters of ruby fruit are wonderful, but you need a very large area to accomodate these beautiful giants. There is a newer species called 'Tiger Eyes' with spectacular foliage, but I'm afraid it'll also reach mammoth proportions. Still I love seeing them juxtaposed in your amazing nature photographs!

Anonymous said...

Have you been to the FP Conservatory lately? Go! I'll be in your neck of the woods this weekend, at a retreat somewhere! I don't even know what inn we are staying at! LOL I had hoped to see Hocking Hills in winter, but it's supposed to be warm and the snow will probably all be melted. Oh well!

Hocking Hills Gardener said...

Cindy; your right it is good in its place.They do add some winter interest.

Gail; Thanks for dropping by.I like the look of the berries.

Catherine; the berries are pretty but over all it is not a very good looking tree.

Teza; now I knew you would know all about this tree.I will have to look up the "Tiger Eyes" to see what it looks like. I have just a small yard so a lot of the trees I would like to have is not possible.
Thanks for dropping by.

Robin; have never been to the FPC but have always wanted to go. The snow takes forever to melt here in the hollows so there may still be snow.There will certainly be ice left.

spookydragonfly said...

Although invasive, I do enjoy Sumac, in it's proper place! At least it's some color now!