Rhus trilobata (syn. Rhus aromatica var.
Skunkbush Sumac, Lemonade Sumac, Sourberry roos tri-lo-BA-ta
- Broadleaf deciduous shrub, upright, ascending or spreading, 2-8 ft (0.6-2.5 m) tall, branches pubescent.
Leaves alternate, compound (pinnate), 3 stalkless leaflets, each elliptic to obovate, 1.5-2.5 cm
long, base wedge-shaped, a few rounded teeth, terminal leaflet often 3-lobed. When crushed, leaves
and branches have an strong odor, to some it is unpleasant but to others it is not offensive.
Flowers small, greenish-white to creamy yellow, in terminal clusters, 0.5-2 cm long. Fruit
sparsely pubescent, orange-red, 6 mm wide, acidic, and reportedly an aroma similar to that of the fruit of lime.
- Sun to light shade. Easy to grow, informal appearance, very drought tolerant, good for soil
stabilization. Can be used as an unpruned hedge and in mass plantings. Provides food
and cover for game and songbirds in fall and winter.
- Hardy to USDA Zone (3) 4 Native range from Saskatchewan and Alberta,
south to Texas and southwest to eastern Oregon, California and into Mexico. Lower growing in the
southerly part of its range. R. trilobata is similar to an eastern version, R.
aromatica, but its foliage is duller and its fruit is less pubescent. Reportedly the crushed leaves of
R. trilobata are "ill-scented" (some say pungent), hence the common name Skunkbush Sumac, whereas the leaves of R.
aromatica have a "pleasant citrus scent" (somewhat less pungent), and one of its common names is Fragrant Sumac.
- Rhus aromatica has been subdivided into several varieties. But since there are no
consistent geographical patterns to variations in characteristics, some authorities suggest that Rhus
aromatica is best considered a polymorphic species consisting of only two varieties, the eastern North
American form, Rhus aromatica var. aromatica, and the western form, Rhus aromatica
var. trilobata (Anderson, 2007). See Rhus aromatica.
- A selection called 'Bighorn' my reach 12 ft (~4 m) tall and twice as wide under cultivation and
- Lemonade Sumac: considered a better name for marketing the species; one of several sumac species in
which the fruit can made into a drink.
- trilobata: three-lobed, a reference to the leaves.