Three-Leaf Sumac, Skunkbush Sumac


Rhus trilobata Nutt.

The shiny green leaves of skunkbush sumac, which are relatively late to appear in the spring, maintain their fresh appearance under tough conditions in the garden. This shrub can expand to form large thickets. Its inconspicuous yellow flowers are followed by more-noticeable orange-red berries that are tart but loved by birds. Leaves, which produce an odor when touched (note the name—but it’s really not bad), have nice fall color ranging from yellow to red to purple. The variety ‘Gro-Low’, as its name implies, stays relatively low to the ground (~2’) but spreads about as wide as the species and may be easier to find in nurseries. Autumn Amber is a new Plant Select cultivar. Three-leaf sumac is content with part shade as well as with full sun.

Height: 3-12’
Width: 4-10’
Water needs: dry to moderate
Exposure: full sun to part shade
Availability in nurseries: common
Native range: western half of the U.S. and central Canada (WY native)
Plant family: Anacardiaceae



Photo by Amy Fluet


Photo by Amy Fluet