Rhus glabra

Common Names: Smooth sumac
Category: Trees
Sub-category: Sumac

Smooth sumac is a spreading, open-growing shrub usually growing up to 3 meters tall, rarely to 5 meters. The leaves are alternate, 30 to 50 cm long, compound with 11 to 31 leaflets, each leaflet 5 to 11 cm long, with a serrated margin. The leaves turn scarlet in the fall. The flowers are tiny, green, produced in dense erect panicles 10 to 25 centimeters tall, in the spring, later followed by large panicles of edible crimson berries that remain throughout the winter. The buds are small, covered with brown hair and borne on fat, hairless twigs. The bark on older wood is smooth and grey to brown. The smooth stem differentiates it from Rhus typhina (staghorn sumac) which has a fuzzy stem.

Likely grows in similar habitats as staghorn sumac, which is dry and poor soil on which other plants cannot survive.

Edible Notes: The berries are edible and may be a good source of vitamin C. Dried, ground sumac berries are used in middle eastern cuisine, especially in Turkey, in a seasoning blend known as Za'atar. The dried berries can also be made into a tea, and then chilled and sweetened as an alternative to pink lemonade. Look for sumac berries in the spice aisle of specialty food stores. Penzey's Spices (https://www.penzeys.com/) in Norwalk, CT has had this spice for sale.
Warnings: Can be mistaken for Toxicodendron vernix (poison sumac).