Shining sumac is a very adaptable, large, colony-forming shrub to small tree used in groups in the shrub border, as a large bank cover or in naturalizing areas. The shining dark green foliage turns a flaming red to red-purple in the fall. In addition, female plants produce terminal clusters of greenish-yellow flowers that mature into clusters of small, red hairy fruits in September and October. An excellent plant for poor dry soils.
"This species is native to the Chicago Region according to Swink and Wilhelm's Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research."
This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.
All Common Names:
Tree or Plant Type:
- Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
- Chicago area,
- North America
- Mixed border,
- Small tree (15-25 feet),
- Compact tree (10-15 feet),
- Large shrub (more than 8 feet)
- Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily),
- Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
- Zone 4,
- Zone 5 (Chicago),
- Zone 6,
- Zone 7,
- Zone 8,
- Zone 9
- Acid soil,
- Dry soil,
- Moist, well-drained soil
- Dry sites,
- Occasional drought,
- Alkaline soil,
- Clay soil,
- Road salt
Season of Interest:
- Early winter,
- Early fall,
- Mid fall,
- Late fall
Flower Color & Fragrance:
Shape or Form:
Size and Form
This large shrub or small tree can grow 20 to 35 feet high and wide. Produces suckers.
Tree & Plant Care
This is a very adaptable, colony-forming shrub.
Best in full sun for excellent fall color. Requires well drained soil.
Prune back stems to control spreading.
Disease, pests, and problems
Leaf spots, aphids, scale, verticillium wilt.
Disease, Pest, and problem resistance
Tolerant of black walnut toxicity and serial salt spray.
Native geographic location and habitat
Native to eastern and central U.S., often found in sandy or rocky woodland borders and savannas.
Bark color and texture
Bark is smooth, silvery gray to light brown with raised lenticels. Older stems develop a peeling bark.
Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture
Alternate, compound leaves are pinnate, consisting of 7 to 21 leaflets and the central leaf stalk is winged between each pair of leaflets.
The shiny, dark green foliage turns a bright scarlet to crimson red in fall.
Flower arrangement, shape, and size
Tiny, greenish-yellow flowers bloom in terminal panicles in late spring to early summer.
Plants have male and female flowers usually occurring on separate plants (dioecious).
Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions
Pollinated female flowers produce showy fruiting clusters (up to 8 inches long). Each cluster contains numerous hairy, berry-like fruit (drupes) which ripen in autumn, gradually turning maroon-brown as they persist through much of the winter. Fruit is attractive to wildlife.
“This plant is a cultivar of a species that is native to the Chicago Region according to Swink and Wilhelm's Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research. Cultivars are plants produced in cultivation by selective breeding or via vegetative propagation from wild plants identified to have desirable traits."
Prairie Flame™ (Rhus copallina var. latifolia ‘Morton’ ): Grows 5 to 6 feet high and up to 10 feet wide, with a compact, mounding form. This male cultivar is a non-fruiting clone with very dark green, glossy foliage, which turns brilliant red in the fall. Showy panicles of gold flowers do not produce seeds. A Chicagoland Grows® introduction.