Flora and Fauna News

Sonoran Desert Edition

Friday, Jan. 9, 2004
Vol. 6 No. 1

African Sumac in Flower

By Michael Plagens
Sonoran Desert Sciences

PHOENIX, Az. ----- Just as the rest of the United States is bracing for the dead of winter, one of our popular shade trees here in Phoenix is coming into full bloom. The tree is the African Sumac, Rhus lancea, an evergreen from South Africa. There it goes by the name Karee. Tiny green flowers are borne in many-flowered panicles and lack showy petals. Although honey bees on rare occasions gather the pollen, pollination is affected mostly by the wind, much to the chagrin of allergy sufferers. Sweet perfume is released into the air by these flowers, thus this plant is both insect and wind pollinated.

Sumacs belong to the plant family Anacardiaceae most of which have pungent terpene resins in their leaves and twigs. Other members of this family include poison ivy, mangos and cashew nuts all of which are well known for their resin component. As with these plants some people may develop dermatitis upon contact with the skin. Even the pollen may harm some people.

These trees produce viable seed and volunteers can often be found growing in hedgerows and in desert washes near urban environments. Potentially this could allow African Sumac to become another unwanted exotic invasive in native Sonoran Desert habitat. Let's hope not!

Leaves and flower panicle from the evergreen tree,
African Sumac (Rhus lancea).

Previous Issue

Next Issue

Back to Current News Edition

Back to Sonoran Desert Naturalist Home Page

Flora and Fauna News appears several times
per month and provides current information about the birds, insects and plants
(natural history) living in the Arizona Sonoran Desert.
Copyright Michael J. Plagens, 2009
Send questions or comments to mjplagens@arizonensis.org