staghorn sumac

(Rhus typhina)

Conservation Status
staghorn sumac
Photo by Luciearl
  IUCN Red List

not listed


N5? - Secure

SNR - Unranked


not listed


Staghorn sumac is a fast-growing, 4 to 15 tall shrub or, rarely, small tree. It rises on a single trunk from long-creeping branched rhizomes. In Minnesota mature plants are usually 4 to 15 tall and 2 to 4 in diameter. Large individuals can reach over 32 in height and 8 in diameter. It often forms dense colonies with the oldest and tallest individuals in the center surrounded by progressively younger and shorter individuals. It is a short-lived tree, usually surviving no more than 50 years.

The trunk is forked and occasionally branched. The crown is open, irregular, and rounded or flat-topped.

The bark on young parts is thin, smooth, and dark brown to yellowish-brown with prominent lenticels. As it ages it becomes slightly scaly.

The upper branchlets are densely covered with with short, brown, hairs. The lower trunk and branches are hairless and woody. In winter the leafless, velvety branches have the appearance of antlers on a buck deer, giving the plant its common name.

The twigs are very stout, tan to slightly reddish, and densely hairy. Older branches have prominent lenticels, while younger branches and twigs do not. When broken the branches exude a yellowish sap.

There is no terminal bud—the branches end in a cluster of fruits or a dead stub. The lateral buds are cone-shaped, 3 16 to ¼ long, and covered with pale brown, velvety hairs. The leaf scar is crescent or horse-shoe shaped and has 3 bundle scars. The leaf scar almost completely surrounds the bud.

The leaves are deciduous, alternate, and pinnately compound. They are 12 to 24 long and are divided into 11 to 31 leaflets. They are on 1¼ to 4 long, densely woolly or felty leaf stalks. The central stalk of the leaf to which the leaflets are attached is slightly reddish and densely hairy and is not winged.

The leaflets are stalkless or on very short stalks. They are arranged in opposite or slightly alternate pairs with 1 terminal leaflet. They are lance-shaped, 2 to 4¾ long, and ¾ to 1¾ wide. They are rounded or slightly heart-shaped at the base and taper to a long point at the tip. The upper surface is dark green and nearly hairless. The lower surface is pale green to sometimes nearly white, moderately to densely hairy along the veins, and covered with a whitish, waxy coating (glaucous). The margins have fine, sharp, forward-pointing teeth or are rarely pinnately lobed. In autumn the leaves turn bright orange, red, or purple.

Male and female flowers are borne on separate plants. The inflorescence is a dense, erect, 2¾ to 10 long, 1½ to 2 wide, branched cluster (panicle) at the end of many of the branchlets. Each panicle is made up of 100 to 700 flowers. Female panicles are more compact than male panicles.

The flowers are tiny and yellowish-green. They appear in early June to mid-July after the leaves are fully developed.

The fruit is fleshy and surrounds a single seed (drupe). It is dark red, to 3 16 long and wide, and covered with bright red, needle-like hairs. They are held in dense, upright clusters. They ripen from August to September and persist for most of the winter.




4 to 15


Flower Color




Similar Species

  Smooth sumac (Rhus glabra) branches, twigs, and rachis are hairless. The drupes are hairless but densely covered with short, nipple-like bumps.  

Dry. Abandoned fields, forest edges, thickets, roadsides. Full sun.




Early June to mid-July


Pests and Diseases






Distribution Map



2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 24, 28, 30.









  Kingdom Plantae (green algae and land plants)  
  Subkingdom Viridiplantae (green plants)  
  Infrakingdom Streptophyta (land plants and green algae)  
  Superdivision Embryophyta (land plants)  
  Division Tracheophyta (vascular plants)  
  Subdivision Spermatophytina (seed plants)  
  Class Magnoliopsida (flowering plants)  
  Subclass Rosidae  
  Superorder Rosanae  


Sapindales (soapberries, cashews, mahoganies, and allies)  


Anacardiaceae (cashew)  
  Subfamily Anacardioideae (cashews, sumacs, and allies)  


Rhus (sumacs)  

Subordinate Taxa






Datisca hirta

Rhus hirta

Rhus typhina var. laciniata


Common Names


staghorn sumac


Velvet sumac

vinegar tree

Virginia sumac









Bundle scar

Tiny raised area within a leaf scar, formed from the broken end of a vascular bundle.



A fleshy fruit with a single hard, stone-like core, like a cherry or peach.



Pale green or bluish gray due to a whitish, powdery or waxy film, as on a plum or a grape.



A corky, round or stripe-like, usually raised, pore-like opening in bark that allows for gas exchange.



A pyramidal inflorescence with a main stem and branches. Flowers on the lower, longer branches mature earlier than those on the shorter, upper ones.



On a compound leaf, having the leaflets arranged on opposite sides of a common stalk. On a bryophyte, having branches evenly arranged on opposite sides of a stem.



A horizontal, usually underground stem. It serves as a reproductive structure, producing roots below and shoots above at the nodes.


Winged leaf stalk

A leaf stalk with a leaf-like or membrane-like extension along both sides.

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Alfredo Colon

    staghorn sumac      
    staghorn sumac   staghorn sumac  

Dan W. Andree


Autumn Sumac...

    staghorn sumac      


    staghorn sumac      



Staghorn sumac as a foundation planting, December 2016, Freeborn County, MN

    staghorn sumac   staghorn sumac  
    staghorn sumac   staghorn sumac  


    staghorn sumac      


    staghorn sumac   staghorn sumac  


    staghorn sumac      


    staghorn sumac      


    staghorn sumac   staghorn sumac  


    staghorn sumac      



  Staghorn Sumac
Wez Smith
  Staghorn Sumac  

Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina).

  Rhus typhina
Blake C. Willson
  Rhus typhina  

Staghorn Sumac

  Rhus typhina
Angie Holmberg

Published on Jul 31, 2014





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Other Videos
  Rhus typhina
wander van laar

Published on Feb 27, 2014


  Staghorn sumac (rhus typhina) identification video

Published on Jul 22, 2013

Staghorn sumac (rhus typhina) identification video

  Plants To Know: Staghorn Sumac

Published on Aug 14, 2014

In our "Plants to Know" series, we are looking at a variety of common plants, medicinal plants, edible plants, and even invasive plants. These short videos will offer you some info on plants that are worth knowing. Staghorn sumac offers a delicious, refreshing drink when you make a lemonade-like beverage from the berries. It's simple to do and these plants are found all over the place.




Visitor Sightings

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  Alfredo Colon

Location: Albany, NY

staghorn sumac  
  Alfredo Colon

Location: Albany, NY

staghorn sumac  
  Alfredo Colon

Location: Albany, NY

staghorn sumac  
  Dan W. Andree

Location: Frenchman’s Bluff SNA

Autumn Sumac...

staghorn sumac  

Location: Cass County

staghorn sumac  
December, 2016

Location: Freeborn County, MN

Staghorn sumac as a foundation planting

staghorn sumac  

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