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Water-Saving Native Plant of The Week by Bob Dailey: Flame Leaf Sumac (Rhus lanceolata)

By: Woodlands Water | Published 06/14/2021

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THE WOODLANDS, TX -- Water-Saving Native Plant of The Week by Bob Dailey: Flame Leaf Sumac (Rhus lanceolata). Prairie Flameleaf Sumac is a thicket forming, small, deciduous tree to 30 ft. in height, but usually no taller than 20 ft that prefers full sun. Pyramidal panicles of red, fall fruit follow white, summer blossoms. Pinnately compound foliage becomes vivid red or orange in fall. Flame Leaf Sumac is native from southern Oklahoma through the north, central, and west Texas to New Mexico and south to Puebla in central Mexico. The limestone-loving Prairie Flameleaf Sumac is relatively fast-growing, generally pest- and disease-free, heat, cold, and drought-tolerant. It grows in soil ranging from rocky, calcareous, limestone soils, including clays, loams, and sands, as long as they are well-drained. Flameleaf is a perfect description of this tree's outstanding orange and red autumn foliage. Still, its pale trunk and branches, green summer leaves, and pyramidal clusters of red fall fruit are also noteworthy. Though it may sucker from the base to form a colony, it is not as likely to aggressively colonize as the more easterly Shining Sumac (Rhus corallum). Like the very different-looking Evergreen Sumac (Rhus virens), Prairie Flameleaf Sumac produces berries that, when soaked in water, make a tart, tasty, high-Vitamin C tea. The fruits attract birds and small mammals, and butterflies. Larval host plant for the Red-banded Hairstreak, Banded Hairstreak butterflies. Note: Most of the Sumacs native to Texas are drought tolerant. 

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