Stag's Horn Sumac
Anacardiaceae - The Cashew or Sumac
A deciduous perennial shrub or small tree.
Growing to approximately 16 ft tall
and 20 ft wide
It has alternate, pinnately compound leaves
10 – 22 in long. Each compound leaf has from 9 - 31 serrate
leaflets each about 2 - 4 in long. The leaf petioles and the
stems are densely covered in rust-colored hairs.
The velvety texture and the forking pattern
of the branches, reminiscent of antlers, have led to the common
name "stag's horn sumac".
May to July
The fruit is one of the most
identifiable characteristics, forming dense clusters of small
red drupes at the tips of the branches. Individual drupes are
covered in velvety hairs, and are dry and unpalatable. Each
fruit cluster is conical in shape and is approximately 4 – 8 in
long and 2 – 3 in wide at the base, and tapering to a point.
The fruit has been known to last
through winter and into spring.
This plant grows in large dense
clusters of either male or female plants, spreading by
either seed or rhizome. It grows aggressively, forming large
groves which have the oldest plants in the center, with the
plants becoming younger as you move outward. The plant
flowers in late spring, and the fruit begins to ripen in
early summer through early autumn. In the Autumn, the
foliage turns brilliant shades of red, orange, and yellow.
Staghorn sumac is not closely related to Poison Sumac (Toxicodendron
Dry forest edges, roadsides, and waste areas
Leaves, berries, bark, root
Wild Food Uses:
A wonderfully delicious "pink lemonade" can
be made from the berries. Gather the torch shaped fruit clusters
after they have ripened in early autumn. Make sure to gather the
berries prior to the heavy rains of late Autumn wash out the
oxcylic acid which gives the fruit their tart taste. Rub the
fruit clusters through your hands to slightly bruise them, and
then place them in a large pail or bucket, and then cover the
fruit with water. Lightly cover the bucket, and place in the sun
for a couple of days. After the fruit has soaked for 2 - 3 days,
pick out the fruit clusters, and strain the remaining liquid
through a fine sieve or cheesecloth. Sweeten the strained liquid
to taste with sugar, and enjoy this healthful, delicious, drink.
Store the remaining pink lemonade in the refrigerator. You can
make a quick drink by bruising the fruit, and soaking for 15
minutes in cold water. I find this to be a bit weak. I suggest
the longer soaking method, as your patience will be rewarded.
The following text is
meant for informational purposes only. It is not meant to diagnose or
treat any illness or injury. Always consult with a physician or other
qualified medical care provider concerning the diagnosis and treatment of
any illness or injury.
The leaves can be dried and smoked as a
treatment for asthma. I know this sounds counterintuitive, but
it works quite well to alleviate the thick mucus associated with
asthma and colds. A drink made from the berries has been known
to quite persistent coughs. After boiling the fruit in a sugar
simple syrup for 10 minutes, strain the mixture through a
cheesecloth or fine sieve to make a wonderfully effective cough
syrup. Leaf tea to treat asthma, colds, and upper respiratory
disorders. Bark tea to treat diarrhea, dysentery, and fevers.
Root tea emetic, diuretic. Alcohol extracts, or tinctures, of
the bark have been shown to be highly effective antiseptic.