Rhus glabra - L.
Smooth Sumac
Other Common Names: smooth sumac
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Rhus glabra L. (TSN 28782)
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.142191
Element Code: PDANA08030
Informal Taxonomy: Plants, Vascular - Flowering Plants - Sumac Family
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Plantae Anthophyta Dicotyledoneae Sapindales Anacardiaceae Rhus
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Concept Reference
Concept Reference: Kartesz, J.T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 2nd edition. 2 vols. Timber Press, Portland, OR.
Concept Reference Code: B94KAR01HQUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Rhus glabra
Conservation Status

NatureServe Status

Global Status: G5
Global Status Last Reviewed: 13May2016
Global Status Last Changed: 29Aug1984
Ranking Methodology Used: Ranked by inspection
Rounded Global Status: G5 - Secure
Nation: United States
National Status: N5
Nation: Canada
National Status: N5 (10Oct2016)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
United States Alabama (SNR), Arizona (SNR), Arkansas (SNR), California (SNR), Colorado (SNR), Connecticut (SNR), Delaware (S4), District of Columbia (SNR), Florida (SNR), Georgia (SNR), Idaho (SNR), Illinois (SNR), Indiana (SNR), Iowa (S5), Kansas (SNR), Kentucky (S5), Louisiana (SNR), Maine (SNR), Maryland (SNR), Massachusetts (SNR), Michigan (SNR), Minnesota (SNR), Mississippi (SNR), Missouri (SNR), Montana (SU), Nebraska (SNR), Nevada (SNR), New Hampshire (SNR), New Jersey (S5), New Mexico (SNR), New York (S5), North Carolina (S5), North Dakota (SNR), Ohio (SNR), Oklahoma (SNR), Oregon (SNR), Pennsylvania (S5), Rhode Island (SNR), South Carolina (SNR), South Dakota (SNR), Tennessee (SNR), Texas (SNR), Utah (SNR), Vermont (SNR), Virginia (S5), Washington (SNR), West Virginia (S5), Wisconsin (SNR), Wyoming (S2)
Canada British Columbia (S3S4), Manitoba (S4), Ontario (S5), Quebec (SX), Saskatchewan (S1)

Other Statuses

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces
Color legend for Distribution Map

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AL, AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, MT, NC, ND, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, VT, WA, WI, WV, WY
Canada BC, MB, ON, QCextirpated, SK

Range Map
No map available.

Ecology & Life History
Technical Description: Usually a sparsely-branched shrub, sometimes to 6 m, the younger branches and petioles glabrous and somewhat glaucous; lfls 11-31, lanceolate to narrowly oblong, 5-10 cm, acuminate, commonly serrate, much paler beneath; infl dense, often 2 dm; frs bright red, densely beset with minute obovoid hairs 0.2 mm. Forms with bipinnate lvs occur (Gleason and Cronquist 1963).
Ecology Comments: Aldous (1934) found that R. glabra is slow at initiating spring growth, and that stem carbohydrate reserves remain high until the plant flowers (June 18 in KS, July 3 in ND). However, carbohydrate reserves are at a maximum in the fall (Aldous 1934).
Habitat Comments: Upland soil, old fields, roadsides, and margins of woods (Gleason). Also with R. trilobata on rocky ridges, ravines, and in thickets on the Great Plains (Aldous 1934).
Economic Attributes
Economic Uses: MEDICINE/DRUG
Management Summary
Stewardship Overview: In healthy or non-grazed grasslands, competition with grasses,drought, and fire may have a cumulative effect that results in preventing shrub dominance. Where Rhus glabra needs to be managed, however, cutting for 2 or 3 succesive years shortly after flowering (late spring-early summer) can help control the spread of sumac. Cutting can also be used in combination with herbicides or prescribed burns.
Management Requirements: Although sumacs are native North American taxa, they can present distinct problems in wetlands, prairies, and rangeland. Sumac encroachment in bogs has been encouraged by nitrate and orthophosphate laden runoff from adjacent farmland (Whitney 1981) and is shading out characteristic bog species (Armstrong and Heston 1982). Aldous (1934) discusses the spread of R. glabra in native prairies in KS. Sumac dominance in rangelands has been shown to increase under heavy grazing pressure (Hetzer and McGregor 1951) and under prescribe burning management (Anderson et al. 1970).

R. glabra is susceptible to a number of control practices. Cutting for 2 or 3 succesive years shortly after flowering (late spring-early summer) can help control the spread of sumac since this is the time when carbohydrate reserves are the lowest and the species has a reduced capacity to respond to top-removal (Aldous 1929, Launchbaug and Owensby 1978). Kline (1982) demonstrated that cutting 5 times in a period of 2 yrs reduced sumac density by 2/3 (compared to a control). Cutting can also be used in combination with herbicides or prescribed burns. Waller (1982) suggests cutting to control young (<5 yrs) stems and cutting and treating with glyphosate to control older stems. Aldous (1929) found that R. glabra responds vigorously to spring burns. His results have been confirmed elsewhere for both R. glabra (Hulbert 1978) and R. copallina (Anderson 1982). Anderson (1982) reported that Toxicodendron (=Rhus) radicans did not resprout following a spring burn. Wright (1972) further noted that the effect of fire on shrubs needs to be evaluated in relation to the ecological potential of the community. In healthy or non-grazed grasslands, competition with grasses,drought, and fire may have a cumulative effect that results in preventing shrub dominance. In heavily grazed grasslands, however, the reduced competition between shrubs and grasses may negate any positive effect burning had on shrub control. Because sumac and perennial grass dominants reserve carbohydrates are depleted and stored at the same time, prescribed burns to favor one will also favor the other. However, Martin (1981) suggested that combining spring burning with mid-summer mowing could help control R. glabra. Repeated cutting and burning had an additional advantage of restoring prairie plants under sumac clones, and these served the dual purpose of shading out sumac sprouts and providing a better fuel base for additional burns (Martin 1981).

Herbicides may also be used. The optimal spray period for any plant can be determined by the maximum gradient of sugars from leaves to roots, as this represents the period when the plant is manufacturing and storing food for the next year's growth. R. glabra may be controlled by foliar sprays of Tordon (0.25 to 0.50 lb/A) ortriclopyr (4 to 8 lb/A), in early to mid-summer (Churchill et al. 1976, Fears 1980). Glyphosate, a biodegradable herbicide, has been successfully used to control T. radicans.

See James E. Evans, Natural Areas J. Vol.3 No.1. for complete details.

Management Programs: One of the few remaining sites of the federally endangered Iliamna remota in Indiana is threatened by shading from R.glabra. In June 1982, sumac was cut from two 10 sq. m. areas at this site. It was found that by that time, I. remota plants were 2 to 3 feet tall and difficult to work around without damaging. J. Aldrich (pers. comm., 1983) proposed cutting in March or April, a procedure which will prevent R. glabra from growing much over 3 feet tall and hence prevent shading of I. remota. It also might prevent use of the area by off-road vehicles.
Population/Occurrence Delineation Not yet assessed
Population/Occurrence Viability
U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
Management Information Edition Date: 29Jun1984
Management Information Edition Author: J.E. EVANS
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 15Nov1993
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): MFO; J.E. EVANS (1984)

Botanical data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs), The North Carolina Botanical Garden, and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

  • Aldous, A. E. 1929. The eradication of brush and weeds from pasture lands. Agron. J. 21:660-666.

  • Aldous, A.E. 1934. Effect of burning on Kansas bluestem pastures. Kansas Agricultural Experiment Station. Technical Bulletin 38. 65 pp.

  • Anderson, K. L., E. F. Smith, and C. E. Owensby. 1970. Burning bluestem range. J. Range Manage. 23:81-92.

  • Anderson, R.C. 1982. An evolutionary model summarizing the roles of fire, climate, and grazing animals in the origin and maintenance of grasslands: an end paper. Pages 297-308 in J.R. Estes, R.J. Tyrl, and J.N. Brunken (eds.), Grasses and Grasslands, Systematics and Ecology. Univ. of Oklahoma Press, Norman. 312 pp.

  • Armstrong, R.C. and K. Heston. 1982. Control of woody invasion of a kettle bog (Ohio). Restoration and Management Notes 1:18.

  • Barkley, F.A. 1937. A monographic study of Rhus and its immediate allies in north and Central America, including the West Indies. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 24 265-498.

  • Bouchard, A., D. Barabé, M. Dumais et S. Hay 1983. Les plantes vasculaires rares du Québec. Syllogeus no 48. Musées nationaux du Canada. Ottawa. 75 p.

  • Churchill, F.M., M. Baker, and H.S. Wright. 1976. Control of smooth sumac. Noxious Brush and Weed Control Research, Highlights 7:44.

  • Evans, J. E. 1983a. Management practices for smooth sumac (Rhus glabra), poison ivy (R. radicans) and other sumac species: a literature review. Nat. Areas J. 3 (1) :16-26.

  • Fears, R. D. 1980. Basal treatment of woody plants with Triclopyr. NCWCC Proc. 35:98-100.

  • Fleurbec / G. Lamoureux, S. Lamoureux, A. Tousignant, L. Cournoyer et R.F. Gauthier / 1994. Plantes susceptibles d'être désignées menacées ou vulnérables. Noms français de 229 espèces. Rapport non publié, préparé pour le gouvernement du Québec, ministère

  • Harms, V.L., P.A. Ryan and J.A. Haraldson. 1992. The rare and endangered vascular plants of Saskatchewan. Prepared for the Saskatchewan Natural History Society. Unpubl.

  • Hetzer, W. A., and R. L. McGregor. 1951. An ecological study of the prairie and pasture lands in Douglas and Franklin counties, Kansas. Kansas Acad. Sci. Trans. 54: 356-369.

  • Hulbert, L.C. 1978. Fire effects on tallgrass or bluestem prairie vegetation. Presented at the Prairie Prescribed Burning Workshop, sponsored by USFWS, USFS, BLM, and North Dakota Chapter of the Wildlife Soc., April 25-28, 1978, Jamestown, ND.

  • Kartesz, J.T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 2nd edition. 2 vols. Timber Press, Portland, OR.

  • Launchbaugh, J. L. and C. E. Owensby. 1978. Kansas Rangelands - their management based on a half-century of research. Kansas Ag. Exp. Stat. Bull. 622. 56 pp.

  • Little, E.L., Jr. 1979. Checklist of United States trees (native and naturalized). Agriculture Handbook No. 541. U.S. Forest Service, Washington, D.C. 375 pp.

  • Martin, M.A. 1981. Control of smooth sumac by cutting in a mesic prairie (Wisconsin). Rest. and Mgmt. Notes 1:12-13.

  • Raymond, M. 1949. Juncus greenei and Rhus glabra in Québec. Rhodora 51 10-sept

  • Raymond, M. 1950. Esquisse phytogéographique du Québec. Mémoires du Jardin botanique de Montréal no 5. 147 p.

  • Rousseau, C. 1974. Géographie floristique du Québec-Labrador : Distribution des principales espèces vasculaires. Presses de l'Université Laval, Québec. 798 p.

  • Waller, D. M. 1982. Effects of cutting and herbicide treatment on smooth sumac (Wisconsin). Rest. and Mgmt. Notes, 1(2):21.

  • Whitney, G.G. 1980. The past and present vegetation of Brown's lake bog. Unpubl. manuscript. Ohio Biological Survey, Columbus. 35 pp.

  • Wright, H.A. 1972. Shrub response to fire. pp. 204-217 in C.M. McKell, J.P. Blaisdell, J.R. Goodin, eds. Wildland Shrubs - Their Biology and Utilization. Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. Technical Report INT-1. 494 pp.

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