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The Sumachs


The sumach family contains more than fifty genera, con fined for the most part to the warmer regions of the globe. Two fruit trees within this family are the mango and the pistachio nut tree. Commercially important also is the turpentine tree of southern Europe. The Japanese lacquer tree yields the black varnish used in all lacquered wares. The cultivated sumachs of southern Europe are important in the tanning industry, their leaves con taining from twenty-five to thirty per cent. of tannic acid.

In the flora of the United States three genera of the family have tree representatives. The genus Rhus, with a total of one hundred and twenty species, stands first.

Most of these belong to South Africa; sixteen to North America where their distribution covers practically the entire continent. Of these, four attain the habit of small trees.

Fleshy roots, pithy branchlets, and milky, or sometimes caustic or watery juice, belong to the sumachs, which are oftenest seen as roadside thickets or fringing the borders of woods. The foliage is fernlike, odd-pinnate, rarely simple. The flowers are conspicuous by their crowding into termi nal or axillary panicles, followed by bony fruits, densely crowded like the flowers.

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