Rhus trilobata
(Skunkbush)
[Nutt.]

Subclass: Rosidae
Order: Sapindales
Family: Anacardiaceae
Family Description: Sumac

Key Characteristics:
Shrub; 1-2 ½ M tall; flowers before leaf formation;
Also known as: Lemonade sumac, Smooth sumac, Squawbush.
leaves
flowers
fruit
  • alternate
  • trifoliate
  • 1-3 cm long
  • sepals oval, tiny 1 mm long
  • petals obovate 2 mm long
  • in tight cluster + 1 cm long
  • globose
  • maroon in color
  • 5-6 mm in diameter
  • short pubescent
  • in small cluster
leaflets
  • dark green above, puberulent below
  • obovate to spatulate
  • terminal one usually 3 lobed

General Description:
These are rounded shrubs up to 7 feet tall. The young twigs are puberulent. The terminal, fan-shaped leaflet is about twice as large as two lateral ones of the trifoliate leaves. The flowers appear before the leaves in the spring. The yellow 1/8 inch long flowers are in ½ inch clusters at the end of twigs. The resinous, reddish drupes can be brewed to make a lemonade tasting drink, eaten raw or cooked, or ground to make cakes which could be dried for future use. Native Americans split the twigs for making basketry. The leaves were sometimes used as a tobacco substitute or mixed with tobacco. The bark was also used to make baskets.

Distribution:
North Dakota to Washington, south to Texas and California

Habitat:
Along streams, wet places, cracks in lava.

Other:
Fruits are edible, fruits can be steeped to make a lemonade like drink

Important State References:
No information available at this time
Photos and Information written by Dr. Karl Holte, 2002