Smooth Sumac (Glabra)

The Smooth Sumac (Glabra) is generally described as a perennial tree or shrub. This is native to the U.S. (United States) has its most active growth period in the spring and summer . The greatest bloom is usually observed in the mid spring, with fruit and seed production starting in the summer and continuing until fall. Leaves are not retained year to year. The Smooth Sumac (Glabra) has a short life span relative to most other plant species and a moderate growth rate. At maturity, the typical Smooth Sumac (Glabra) will reach up to 12 feet high, with a maximum height at 20 years of 12 feet.

The Smooth Sumac (Glabra) is easily found in nurseries, garden stores and other plant dealers and distributors. It can be propagated by bare root, container, seed. It has a slow ability to spread through seed production and the seedlings have high vigor. Note that cold stratification is not required for seed germination and the plant cannot survive exposure to temperatures below -33°F. has medium tolerance to drought and restricted water conditions.

Uses of : Landscaping, Medicinal, Culinary, etc.

Ethnobotanic: This was a widely used species among Native American tribes. The uses included the making of a root and leaf tea to treat diarrhea, dysentery, and mouth/throat ulcers. The leaves of the plant were smoked for asthma. The blossoms were used by the Chippewa in a mouthwash for teething children. Comanche children enjoyed the sour acid taste of the fruits and leaves were added to tobacco for smoking by adults. Dye was also created from various parts of the smooth sumac. The fruits were used to make red dyes and the inner bark used to make yellow dyes.

General Characteristics

General: Sumac Family (Anacardiaceae). Smooth sumac can be a shrub or small tree growing up to 3 meters in height. Smooth sumac forms thickets from root suckers. The stems and branches are hairless and covered with a whitish waxy coating. The leaves are alternate and pinnately compound (3-5 dm long). Smooth sumac has 11-31 leaflets that are lanceolate to oblong-lanceolate (7-9 cm long). The leaflets taper to a point at the tip and are rounded at the base. The margins are sharply serrated. The upper surface is dark green and lustrous. The lower surface is covered with a whitish waxy coating. Smooth sumac has a branched, racemose inflorescence with flowers maturing from the bottom up (10-25 cm long). The flowers have a greenish color. The drupes have a flattened-globe shape (3.5-4.5 mm long) and are covered with red, sticky hairs. The seeds are yellowish in color and smooth (3-3.5 mm long).

Required Growing Conditions

For current distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.

Habitat: Smooth sumac is found in open woodlands, prairies, on dry rocky hillsides, and in canyons.

Adaptation Smooth sumac vigorously resprouts from rhizomes following fire. The rhizomes are usually located between 3 and 12 inches below the soil surface and this may provide protection from heat during a fire.


Weediness This plant may become weedy or invasive in some regions or habitats and may displace desirable vegetation if not properly managed.

General Upkeep and Control

RHTR"Skunkbush sprouts vigorously from woody rhizomes or from adventitious buds at the root crown after top-kill by fire. Crown width and overall coverage often increase in response to fire. Skunkbush also may have the ability to delay sprouting for up to a year following fire.

Skunkbush can be propagated from root and softwood cuttings – most effectively done well before freezing weather. Best seed germination is from fall and winter planting. The presence of seeded grasses has reduced the survival of skunkbush at some sites, and although the plants are generally drought-tolerant, water-stressed seedlings may be stunted for several years and sometimes fail to recover. Skunkbush is generally reported to be tolerant of heavy grazing. "

Plant Basics
Growth Rate Moderate
General Type Tree, Shrub
Growth Period Spring, Summer
Growth Duration Perennial
Lifespan Short
Plant Nativity Native to U.S.
Commercial Availability Routinely Available
Physical Characteristics
Bloom Period Mid Spring
Displays Fall Colors Yes
Shape/Growth Form Rhizomatous
Drought Tolerance Medium
Shade Tolerance Intolerant
Height When Mature 12
Vegetative Spread Moderate
Flower Color Yellow
Flower Conspicuousness No
Fruit/Seed Abundance High
Fruit/Seed Seasonality Summer Fall
Seed Spread Rate Slow
Gardening Characteristics
Propagations (Ways to Grow) Bare Root, Container, Seed
Moisture Requirements Low
Cold Stratification Required No
Minimum Temperature -33
Soil Depth for Roots 24
Toxic to Nearby Plants No
Toxic to Livestock No
After-Harvest Resprout Ability Yes
Responds to Coppicing Yes
Growth Requirements
pH Range 5.3–7.5 pH
Precipitation Range 30–30 inches/yr
Planting Density 300–1200 indiv./acre
Soil Textures Coarse, Medium
Soil Depth for Roots 24
Minimum Frost-Free Days 135 day(s)
Salinity Tolerance None
CaCO3 Tolerance Low
Sustainability & Use
Leaf Retention No
Palatability Low
Fire Resistant No
Causes Livestock Bloating None

Source: USDA, NRCS, PLANTS Database,
National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA