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Staghorn sumac

Red fall color of staghorn sumac.

Staghorn sumac is often used in mass plantings, for naturalizing, or on steep slopes. Its open habit and hairy stems resemble horns on a male deer, giving staghorn sumac its name.   It is one of the last plants to leaf out in the spring with bright green leaves that change to an attractive yellow, orange, and scarlet in fall. Among the most recognizable characteristics are large, upright clusters of fuzzy red fruits that appear above the branches in late summer on female plants. They are highly appealing to birds.   
"This species is native to the Chicago Region according to Swink and Wilhelm's Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research." 

This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.


Botanical name:

Rhus typhina

All common names:

Staghorn sumac

Family (English):

Cashew or Sumac

Family (Botanic):


Tree or Plant Type:

  • Shrub,
  • Tree

Native Locale:

  • Chicago area,
  • Illinois,
  • North America

Landscape Uses:

  • Massing,
  • Screen,
  • Specimen

Size Range:

  • Small tree (15-25 feet),
  • Compact tree (10-15 feet),
  • Large shrub (more than 8 feet)

Light Exposure:

  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)

Hardiness Zones:

  • Zone 4,
  • Zone 5 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6,
  • Zone 7,
  • Zone 8

Soil Preference:

  • Dry soil,
  • Moist, well-drained soil


  • Dry sites,
  • Occasional drought,
  • Alkaline soil,
  • Clay soil,
  • Road salt

Seasons of Interest:

  • early winter,
  • midwinter,
  • early summer,
  • early fall,
  • mid fall,
  • late fall

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • Yellow

Shape or Form:

  • Broad,
  • Irregular,
  • Multi-stemmed,
  • Thicket-forming

Growth Rate:

  • Fast

More Information:

Size & Form

Staghorn sumac is one of the largest native sumacs reaching up to 25 feet tall and wide.
A large, open, colony-forming shrub that spreads by runners. 

Tree & Plant Care

Very adaptable to most growing conditions, from poor soils to drought conditions.
Best in full sun and well-drained soil.
Spreads by root suckers to form large colonies. Unwanted suckers can be mowed or removed to keep plants managable.
Does not tolerat wet sites.

Disease, pests, and problems

Leaf spots, rust, verticillium wilt.

Disease, pest, and problem resistance

Tolerant of black walnut toxicity and salt conditions.

Native geographic location and habitat

C-Value:  1
Native to the Eastern and Midwest U.S. 
Often found growing on rocky slopes, dry forest edges, lake shores and sandy shores.

Bark color and texture 

Young stems are reddish-brown and densely hairy. Older twigs are stout and lose their hair, but remain brown.
Mature bark is thin and gray with raised lenticels.
Broken twigs and leaves are aromatic  when crushed.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Alternate, large compound leaves with 11 to 25 leaflets. Each leaflet is linear in shape, dark green and hairy above with a smooth, white color beneath. Leaf margins are finely toothed.
The leaf stalk (rachis) and petioles are also hairy. One of last plants to leaf out in spring.
Fall color is an outstanding yellow, orange and scarlet.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Dioecous, separate male and female flowers on separate plants.
Large, dense terminal clusters of greenish yellow, up to 12 inches long appear in June and July.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Dense, fuzzy clusters of dark red fruits appear in early fall. Fruit is often persistent through winter.

Cultivars and their differences 

“This plant is a cultivar of a species that is native to the Chicago Region according to Swink and Wilhelm's Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research. Cultivars are plants produced in cultivation by selective breeding or via vegetative propagation from wild plants identified to have desirable traits."

Cutleaf Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina 'Laciniata'): Wide-spreading, colony forming reaching 8 to 10 feet high and 12 to 15 feet wide. Finely divided green leaves, ferny-like. Orange, red and yellow fall color.

Tiger Eyes® Cutleaf Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina 'Bailtiger'): A golden cutleaf form with chartresue green leaves changing yellow, orange and scarlet in fall. Upright to rounded, reaching 5 to 6 feet high and wide.


Location of Rhus typhina (Staghorn sumac) at the Arboretum