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Sumac

leaves, yellow, drupes, species, rhus, black and panicles

SUMAC, any shrub or tree of the genus Rho's. Some species are poisonous to the touch. (See Pwarrs, PolsoNous). One of the most common innocent eastern species of America, and the largest, is Rhus hirta, the staghorn sumac, so called because its young, short branches are covered with down, in color and texture not unlike a deer's antlers (tin the velvet.* The trees are not more than 30 feet high, but are apt to grow in clumps and have a tropical appearance, with their long pinnate leaves turning to vivid yellow and crimson in autumn. Their autumnal beauty is further en hanced by the torch-like panicles of fruits, small drupes matted together by the crimson plush of the hairs that cover them in to pyra midal bunches terminating the branches. These fruit-masses remain throughout the winter, and are a favorite food of chickadees, in spite of the fur and the acidulous taste. The sour flavor was taken advantage of by the Indians and colonists who made a cooling drink from the plant. The crimson hairs also yielded a red dye, when immersed in boiling water. The wood is yellow and handsomely veined, but is very brittle ; it is, however, occasionally made into canes. The fragrant, or sweet-scented sumac (Rhus crenata), is a low shur.b with aromatic leaves and large panicles of greenish, honey-scented flowers which bloom in spring and are a famous food for bees. R. glabra is the upland or smooth sumac, which is smooth and even glaucous; its leaves were added to the tobacco of the aborigines; and an efficient gargle is made from the refrigerant and as tringent drupes. The dwarf black or mountain sumac (R. copallina), similar in size to the above species, and like them having panicles of bloom succeeded by scarlet masses of drupes, is more bushy in growth, forming low thickets in sandy or dry, almost sterile soil, and is peculiar in that the main stem of its compound leaves bears coriaceous wings between the leaflets. The latter are shining above, and pubescent beneath, and, like those of R. glabra, when dried are material for tanning. They are, however, said to be inferior to those of the Rhus coriaria, native to and cultivated in the Mediterranean regions, which are especially valuable for tanning fine leathers, as the light tinted moroccos. They are collected, dried,

and exported in great quantities in the shape of a fine dust. The Venetian sumac, or smoke tree, is also used for the same purpose. (See Sitoicg-rase). The sumacs are very useful tree shrubs to the Indians of the western United States. The twigs of Rhus trilobata, the aro matic sumac, having small three-lobed leaves, are soaked, scraped and split, resoaked in water, and then woven into baskets., sometimes in conjunction with other materials. These light, straw-colored withes are used probably more than any material , except the willows for native basketry. R. diversiloba, the poison oak, although greatly dreaded by the Cherokees; who endeavor to conciliate it by addressing it as friend,* does not seem to injure certain Californian tribes so much. They even use it as medicine, sometimes poisoning themselves internally by the practice, and use twigs of it as water-sprinklers in sacred ceremonies; it is also a material for woven fabrics. Its juice, which turns black rapidly on exposure to air, is utilized as an intense black dye for basketry. R. trilobata likewise yields a dye. A strong decoction of the leaves and twigs is made, to which is added roasted pinyon gum and yellow ochre, forming a rich, blue-black fluid, which is practically an ink, the tannic acid of the sumac combining with the iron in the yellow ochre, and being strengthened with the carbon of the burnt gum. The lacquer or varnish of China and Japan is nothing but the sap of another sumac (R. vernicifera) or varnish-tree, cultivated in those countries. When the bark is cut, the shrub exudes a juice, darkening after exposure. When kept for some time this sap becomes thick and viscous, blackish-brown in color in one mass, but yellow-brown and trans parent in thin layers. When properly applied in successive layers and dried, it becomes a natural varnish of great hardness and unal terability. Nut galls, or iron in solution, added to this, or gold and other metals, make the various kinds of lacquer or japanning, which it often takes years to perfect. Japan wax is a vegetable wax used chiefly for candles and obtained by crushing, steaming and pressing the drupes of this species and of the Asiatic R. succedanea.