This is an archived copy of this article, recovered after a server failure in January 2022.

Some links may be broken, and editing is disabled. We are working to bring back full functionality.


Toxic parts

There are some suggestions that the sap of this species can cause a skin rash in susceptible people, but this has not been substantiated. See also notes in 'Cultivation Details'.

Edible uses


Fruit - raw or cooked[1][2][3]. An acid flavour, it has been used as a substitute for lemon juice[1]. The fruit is rather small and with very little flesh, but it is produced on fairly large panicles and so is easily harvested. When soaked for 10 - 30 minutes in hot or cold water it makes a very refreshing lemonade-like drink (without any fizz of course)[4][5][6][7][8][9][10]. The mixture should not be boiled since this will release tannic acids and make the drink astringent.

Root - peeled and eaten raw[11][10]. This report should be treated with some caution due to possible toxicity[12]. Young shoots - peeled and eaten raw[10][13]. This report should be treated with some caution due to possible toxicity[12].

The bark has been eaten as a delicacy by children[13]. This report should be treated with some caution due to possible toxicity[12].

Unknown part


Material uses

The leaves are rich in tannin, containing about 10 - 25%[14]. Up to 31.2% has been obtained from some plants[15]. They can be collected as they fall in the autumn and used as a brown dye or as a mordant[16]. The twigs and root are also rich in tannin[8].

A black and a red dye is obtained from the fruit[17][13]. A black dye is obtained from the leaves, bark and roots[13]. An orange or yellow dye is obtained from the roots harvested in spring[3][18][13]. A light yellow dye is obtained from the pulp of the stems[13]. The inner bark, mixed with bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) and the inner bark of wild plum (Prunus sp.) has been used to make a yellow dye[13]. An oil is extracted from the seeds[17]. It attains a tallow-like consistency on standing and is used to make candles. These burn brilliantly, though they emit a pungent smoke[17]. The plant has an extensive root system and is fairly wind tolerant, though branches can be broken off in very strong winds. It is planted for soil stabilization and as a shelter screen[19]. It can quickly establish itself in open sunny locations and so can be used as a pioneer species for establishing woodlands[20].

Wood - soft, light, brittle[6][8].

Unknown part

Medicinal uses(Warning!)

Smooth sumach was employed medicinally by various native North American Indian tribes who used it to treat a variety of complaints[13]. It is occasionally used in modern herbalism where it is valued for its astringent and antiseptic qualities. Some caution should be employed in the use of this species since it can possibly cause skin irritations. It is best only used under the supervision of a qualified practitioner.

A tea made from the bark or root bark is alterative, antiseptic, astringent, galactogogue, haemostatic, rubefacient and tonic[17][21][22][13]. It is used in the treatment of diarrhoea, fevers, general debility, sore mouths, rectal bleeding, uterine prolapse etc[21][23]. It is used as a gargle to treat sore throats and applied externally to treat excessive vaginal discharge, burns and skin eruptions[23][13]. The powdered bark can be applied as a poultice to old ulcers, it is a good antiseptic[17]. A tea made from the roots is appetizer, astringent, diuretic and emetic[21][13]. An infusion is used in the treatment of colds, sore throats, painful urination, retention of urine and dysentery[13]. The root is harvested in the autumn and dried for later use[23]. An infusion of the green or dried branches has been used in the treatment of TB[13]. A decoction of the branches, with the seed heads, has been used to treat itchy scalps and as a bathing water for frost-bitten limbs[13]. The milky latex from the plant has been used as a salve on sores[13]. A tea made from the leaves was used in the treatment of asthma, diarrhoea and stomatitis[21]. A poultice of the leaves has been used to treat skin rashes[13]. The leaves have been chewed to treat sore gums and they have been rubbed on the lips to treat sore lips[13]. The berries are diuretic, emetic, emmenagogue, purgative and refrigerant[17][13]. They are used in the treatment of late-onset diabetes, stranguary bowel complaints, febrile diseases, dysmenorrhoea etc[17][23][13]. They have been chewed as a remedy for bed-wetting[21][13].

The blossoms have been chewed as a treatment for sore mouths[13]. A decoction of the blossoms has been used as a mouthwash for teething children[13]. An infusion of the blossoms has been used as an eye wash for sore eyes[13].


Ecosystem niche/layer

Ecological Functions




Earth stabiliser


Nothing listed.


Nothing listed.


Seed - best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe. Pre-soak the seed for 24 hours in hot water (starting at a temperature of 80 - 90c and allowing it to cool) prior to sowing in order to leach out any germination inhibitors[19]. This soak water can be drunk and has a delicious lemon-flavour. The stored seed also needs hot water treatment and can be sown in early spring in a cold frame[19]. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts.

Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 10cm with a heel, July/August in a frame[19]. Root cuttings 4cm long taken in December and potted up vertically in a greenhouse. Good percentage[24][19].

Suckers in late autumn to winter[19].

Practical Plants is currently lacking information on propagation instructions of Rhus glabra. Help us fill in the blanks! Edit this page to add your knowledge.


Succeeds in a well-drained fertile soil in full sun[25][19]. Tolerates poor sandy soils[19].

A very hardy plant, when fully dormant it can tolerate temperatures down to at least -25°c[19]. However, the young growth in spring can be damaged by late frosts. A fast-growing but short-lived plant in the wild[20]. Single-stem plants are short-lived in cultivation, but if the plants are coppiced regularly and allowed to form thickets, then they will live longer and also be more ornamental with larger leaves[22]. Any coppicing is best carried out in early spring[22]. It is a very ornamental plant, there are some named varieties[26]. Closely allied to R. typhina[25], it hybridizes with that species where their ranges overlap[6][20]. Plants have brittle branches and these can be broken off in strong winds[19]. Plants are also susceptible to coral spot fungus[25]. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus[19]. A good bee plant[K]. Many of the species in this genus are highly toxic and can also cause severe irritation to the skin of some people, whilst other species such as this one are not poisonous. It is relatively simple to distinguish which is which, the poisonous species have axillary panicles and smooth fruits whilst non-poisonous species have compound terminal panicles and fruits covered with acid crimson hairs[27][17]. The toxic species are sometimes separated into their own genus, Toxicodendron, by some botanists[19].

Dioecious. Male and female plants must be grown if seed is required.


Problems, pests & diseases

Associations & Interactions

There are no interactions listed for Rhus glabra. Do you know of an interaction that should be listed here? edit this page to add it.

Polycultures & Guilds

There are no polycultures listed which include Rhus glabra.




None listed.


None listed.

Full Data

This table shows all the data stored for this plant.

Binomial name
Rhus glabra
Imported References
Material uses & Functions
Edible uses
None listed.
Material uses
None listed.
Medicinal uses
None listed.
Functions & Nature
Provides forage for
Provides shelter for
Hardiness Zone
Heat Zone
full sun
no shade
Soil PH
Soil Texture
Soil Water Retention
Environmental Tolerances
  • Strong wind
Native Climate Zones
None listed.
Adapted Climate Zones
None listed.
Native Geographical Range
None listed.
Native Environment
None listed.
Ecosystem Niche
None listed.
Root Zone Tendancy
None listed.
Deciduous or Evergreen
Herbaceous or Woody
Life Cycle
Growth Rate
Mature Size
3 x 3 meters
Flower Colour
Flower Type

"image:Rhus glabra.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki. "image:Rhus glabra.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki. "image:Rhus glabra.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki.

"image:Rhus glabra.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki. "image:Rhus glabra.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki.

"image:Rhus glabra.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki.

"image:Rhus glabra.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki.

"image:Rhus glabra.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki., "image:Rhus glabra.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki., "image:Rhus glabra.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki. "image:Rhus glabra.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki., "image:Rhus glabra.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki., "image:Rhus glabra.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki. "image:Rhus glabra.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki. "image:Rhus glabra.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki."image:Rhus glabra.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki.


  1. ? Hedrick. U. P. Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World. Dover Publications ISBN 0-486-20459-6 (1972-00-00)
  2. ? 2.02.1 Sholto-Douglas. J. Alternative Foods. ()
  3. ? Uphof. J. C. Th. Dictionary of Economic Plants. Weinheim (1959-00-00)
  4. ? 4.04.1 Harrington. H. D. Edible Native Plants of the Rocky Mountains. University of New Mexico Press ISBN 0-8623-0343-9 (1967-00-00)
  5. ? 5.05.1 Saunders. C. F. Edible and Useful Wild Plants of the United States and Canada. Dover Publications ISBN 0-486-23310-3 (1976-00-00)
  6. ? Turner. N. J. and Szczawinski. A. Edible Wild Fruits and Nuts of Canada. National Museum of Natural Sciences (1978-00-00)
  7. ? 7.07.1 Kavasch. B. Native Harvests. Vintage Books ISBN 0-394-72811-4 (1979-00-00)
  8. ? Vines. R. A. Trees of Central Texas. University of Texas Press ISBN 0-292-78958-3 (1987-00-00)
  9. ? 9.09.1 McPherson. A. and S. Wild Food Plants of Indiana. Indiana University Press ISBN 0-253-28925-4 (1977-00-00)
  10. ? Facciola. S. Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants. Kampong Publications ISBN 0-9628087-0-9 (1990-00-00)
  11. ? 11.011.1 Yanovsky. E. Food Plants of the N. American Indians. Publication no. 237. U.S. Depf of Agriculture. ()
  12. ? Matthews. V. The New Plantsman. Volume 1, 1994. Royal Horticultural Society ISBN 1352-4186 (1994-00-00)
  13. ? 13.0013.0113.0213.0313.0413.0513.0613.0713.0813.0913.1013.1113.1213.1313.1413.1513.1613.1713.1813.1913.2013.2113.2213.2313.2413.25 Moerman. D. Native American Ethnobotany Timber Press. Oregon. ISBN 0-88192-453-9 (1998-00-00)
  14. ? 14.014.1 Hill. A. F. Economic Botany. The Maple Press (1952-00-00)
  15. ? 15.015.1 Rottsieper. E.H.W. Vegetable Tannins The Forestal Land, Timber and Railways Co. Ltd. (1946-00-00)
  16. ? 16.016.1 Buchanan. R. A Weavers Garden. ()
  17. ? Grieve. A Modern Herbal. Penguin ISBN 0-14-046-440-9 (1984-00-00)
  18. ? 18.018.1 Usher. G. A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man. Constable ISBN 0094579202 (1974-00-00)
  19. ? 19.0019.0119.0219.0319.0419.0519.0619.0719.0819.0919.1019.1119.1219.13 Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992. MacMillan Press ISBN 0-333-47494-5 (1992-00-00)
  20. ? Elias. T. The Complete Trees of N. America. Field Guide and Natural History. Van Nostrand Reinhold Co. ISBN 0442238622 (1980-00-00)
  21. ? Foster. S. & Duke. J. A. A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants. Eastern and Central N. America. Houghton Mifflin Co. ISBN 0395467225 (1990-00-00)
  22. ? Bown. D. Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses. Dorling Kindersley, London. ISBN 0-7513-020-31 (1995-00-00)
  23. ? Chevallier. A. The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants Dorling Kindersley. London ISBN 9-780751-303148 (1996-00-00)
  24. ? Sheat. W. G. Propagation of Trees, Shrubs and Conifers. MacMillan and Co (1948-00-00)
  25. ? Bean. W. Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement. Murray (1981-00-00)
  26. ? Thomas. G. S. Ornamental Shrubs, Climbers and Bamboos. Murray ISBN 0-7195-5043-2 (1992-00-00)
  27. ? F. Chittendon. RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956 Oxford University Press (1951-00-00)
  28. ? Fernald. M. L. Gray's Manual of Botany. American Book Co. (1950-00-00)

Cite error: <ref> tag with name "PFAFimport-60" defined in <references> is not used in prior text.

"image:Rhus glabra.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki.

Facts about "Rhus glabra"RDF feed
Article is incompleteYes +
Article requires citationsNo +
Article requires cleanupYes +
Belongs to familyAnacardiaceae +
Belongs to genusRhus +
Functions asHedge +, Pioneer +, Windbreak + and Earth stabiliser +
Has common nameSmooth Sumach +
Has drought toleranceIntolerant +
Has edible partUnknown part +, Fruit +, Root + and Stem +
Has edible useDrink + and Unknown use +
Has environmental toleranceHigh wind +
Has fertility typeSelf sterile + and Bee +
Has flowers of typeDioecious +
Has hardiness zone2 +
Has imageRhus glabra.jpg +
Has lifecycle typePerennial +
Has material partUnknown part +
Has material useDye +, Mordant +, Oil +, Tannin + and Wood +
Has mature height3 +
Has mature width3 +
Has medicinal partUnknown part +
Has medicinal useAlterative +, Antiseptic +, Appetizer +, Astringent +, Diuretic +, Emetic +, Emmenagogue +, Febrifuge +, Galactogogue +, Haemostatic +, Ophthalmic +, Refrigerant +, Rubefacient +, Salve +, TB + and Tonic +
Has primary imageRhus glabra.jpg +
Has search namerhus glabra + and x +
Has shade toleranceNo shade +
Has soil ph preferenceAcid +, Neutral + and Alkaline +
Has soil teclayture preferenceClay +
Has soil teloamyture preferenceLoamy +
Has soil tesandyture preferenceSandy +
Has soil water retention preferenceWell drained +
Has sun preferenceFull sun +
Has taxonomy nameRhus glabra +
Has water requirementsmoderate +
Is deciduous or evergreenDeciduous +
Is herbaceous or woodyWoody +
Is taxonomy typeSpecies +
Tolerates nutritionally poor soilNo +
Tolerates windYes +
Uses mature size measurement unitMeters +