Rhus trilobata (Three-Leaf Sumac)


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Plant Description: A deciduous low-growing shrub with many branches, from upright to arching, sprouting from rhizomes and root crowns. Leaves are compound into three lobed leaflets. They are fragrant, especially with contact, and turn bright yellow, orange, and red in the fall. The branches and leaves of this plant are covered in small soft hairs. 

Rhus trilobata is polygamodiocious, meaning it has female and male flowers on separate plants, as well as bisexual flowers on the male plants. The white or light yellow flowers are small and grouped together in dense clusters. Female flowers mature into small red drupes covered in sticky glandular hairs. 

This plant also has tart, edible berries, sometimes used to make lemonade-like drinks. The fruits will persist into winter if not eaten by wildlife. *NEVER CONSUME PLANTS WITHOUT PROPER ID.

  • Height: 3-6ft
  • Width: 3-8ft
  • Watering needs: moderate
  • Sun needs: full sun to part shade
  • Soil needs: dry to moist 
  • Bloom Time: Between May and June
  • Ripening Time: June into winter

Landscape Use and Ecological Function: A native plant, Rhus trilobata grows throughout the Western United States. It forms thickets and grows on hillsides, canyons, and near streambanks at elevations from 3280-9842 ft. We recommend this plant for meadowscapes and hedgerows. The habitat it helps to create attracts pollinators and it also provides food and cover for birds. Drought tolerant once established.

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