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Fragrant Sumac
Rhus aromatica

About Fragrant Sumac (Rhus aromatica) Rhus trilobata is a shrub in the Anacardiaceae (Cashew) family with the common name Fragrant Sumac and several others. It was formerly classified as Rhus trilobata and some sources still refer to it that way. It is native to western North America. In California it occurs in many parts of the state including the northern Coast Ranges, Sierra foothills and southern coastal mountains. It can be found from deserts to mountain peaks up to about 7,000 feet in elevation. The pale yellow flowers are followed by a red, fleshy drupe that has a sticky coating, similar to Lemonade Berry. This species closely resembles other members of the genus that have leaves with three "leaflets" ("trifoliate" leaves), including Poison-oak. People with sensitivity to Poison-oak should use caution around Fragrant Sumac. The shape of the leaflets and the habit of the shrub make this species, like some other Rhus, resemble small-leafed oaks (Quercus). The plant is deciduous and exhibits good fall color.
Plant Description
Plant Type

Max. Height
1.6 - 8 ft (0.49 - 2.4 m)

Max. Width
8 ft (2.4 m)

Mounding, Rounded

Growth Rate

Winter Deciduous

Flower Color
Cream, Yellow

Flowering Season

Native Status

Natural Setting
Site Type
Slopes, washes, canyons, mesas, and desert mountains


Elevation ?
7' - 10940'

Annual Precip. ?
4.5" - 84.5"

Summer Precip. ?
0.15" - 3.91"

Coldest Month ?
18.4° F - 56.7° F

Hottest Month ?
39.7° F - 83.7° F

Humidity ?
0.09 vpd - 36.82 vpd

Soil Description
Prefers sandy soil

Soil PH
6.0 - 8.0


Cold Tolerance(° F)
Tolerates cold to -15° F

Sunset Zones ?
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6*, 7*, 8, 9, 10, 14*, 15, 16, 17, 18*, 19*, 20*, 21*, 22, 23, 24

Companion Plants
Use with Manzanita (Arctostaphylos sp.), Western Redbud (Cercis occidentalis), Pines (Pinus sp.), Oaks (Quercus sp.), Juniper (Juniperus sp.), and most chaparral plants

Landscaping Information
Ease of Care
Moderately Easy

Water Requirement ?
Extremely Low
Very Low
Moderate - High

Moderately Popular

Max. Summer Water ?
2x/month, 3x/month
No Summer Water
Keep moist

Inorganic, Organic with Rocks

Propagation ?
For propagating by seed: Hot wa ter or soak in concentrated H2S04 1-3 hrs., then 2-3 mos. stratification.

Common uses
Hedges, Deer Resistant, Bird Gardens

Other Names
Botanical Names
Rhus trilobata,Rhus trilobata var. simplicifolia

Common Names
Several Others, Skunkbrush, Skunkbush Sumac, Squawbush

Sources include: Wikipedia. All text shown in the "About" section of these pages is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. Plant observation data provided by the participants of the California Consortia of Herbaria, Sunset information provided by Jepson Flora Project. Propogation from seed information provided by the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden from "Seed Propagation of Native California Plants" by Dara E. Emery. Sources of plant photos include CalPhotos, Wikimedia Commons, and independent plant photographers who have agreed to share their images with Calscape. Other general sources of information include Calflora, CNPS Manual of Vegetation Online, Jepson Flora Project, Las Pilitas, Theodore Payne, Tree of Life, The Xerces Society, and information provided by CNPS volunteer editors, with special thanks to Don Rideout. Climate data used in creation of plant range maps is from PRISM Climate Group, Oregon State University, using 30 year (1981-2010) annual "normals" at an 800 meter spatial resolution.

Links:   Jepson eFlora Taxon Page  CalPhotos  Wikipedia  Calflora

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