bona terra

A blog for the Washington, DC based landscaping business Bona Terra LLC


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Native species: Cutleaf Staghorn sumac

Bona Terra promotes the use of native plants, shrubs and trees, which preserve the local ecosystem, support local wildlife, and contribute to reforestation. We’ll occasionally highlight some of our favorite native species here on the blog. In this post our office manager writes about Staghorn sumac, specifically the cutleaf cultivar:

One of the most striking shrubs I’ve ever seen is Rhus typhina, or Staghorn sumac, a native woody plant. While Staghorn sumac, in its larger tree-like form, is the biggest sumac in North America, the smaller cutleaf cultivars (‘Laciniata’ or ‘Tiger eyes’) grow less upright and have a delicate and airy appearance. But don’t let its looks deceive you. This is a tough and hardy species with robust foliage during its long growing season. It’s not a shrub we plant very often because of how quickly it spreads, and it requires a lot of pruning attention to maintain its unique form and to keep it from overtaking a garden. If you’re willing to give this sumac your time and loving care I think it’s well worth it. The shrub has a practical function on slopes reducing soil erosion by stabilizing the soil quickly with its hastily spreading roots and seeds. Its beauty and architectural form alone bring an alluring and vivid addition to gardens. Their aggressive growth is also useful when trying to push out unwanted plants in your garden.

Last year I was able to track the ever changing growth of the Cutleaf Staghorn sumac.

staghorn sumac April

Staghorn sumac’s horn-like branches first caught my eye in winter time, and then its velvety buds emerged in early April

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Spreading its leaves a couple weeks later

staghorn sumac detail June

Later in June when the fruit becomes visible

Fruit of the Staghorn, and a preview of the fiery orange and red foliage expected in the fall.

Fruit of the Staghorn, and a preview of the fiery orange and red foliage expected in the fall.

staghorn sumac full June

A robust Staghorn sumac ‘Tiger eyes’ in midsummer.

Orange, red and bronze foliage in October.

Orange, red and bronze foliage in October.

Staghorn sumac covered in icicles during the winter season.

Staghorn sumac covered in icicles during the winter season.

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