Fragrant Sumac

Rhus aromatica
(Rhus trilobata)

Rhus aromatica, Pen & Ink illustration © by Michael Plagens

Drawn from live specimen found in Maricopa County, Arizona.

Rhus aromatica inflorescence photo © by Michael Plagens

The flowers often appear before the new leaves of spring. Mazatzal Mts, Maricopa Co., Arizona, USA on 15 March 2015.

LEAVES: Compound leaves have three segments which have rounded lobes. All the foliage will release pungent resinous terpenes on being crushed or rubbed against. In autumn, like many sumacs, the deciduous leaves turn a glorious orange-red. A few people get dermatitis from this plant.

SHRUB: A woody shrub usually 1 to 3 meters tall and often forming broad thickets.

RANGE: Skunkbush is really a plant of higher, moister elevations than typical Sonoran Desert. Deep shady canyons, however, even in some surprisingly hot locations will have populations of Skunkbush.

FRUIT: Red berries with conspicuous trichomes and a sticky texture.

FLOWERS: Whitish flowers are arrayed in compact panicles blooming mostly in spring, but also sporadically at other times of the year.


Skunkbush Gall-Mite

leaf gall caused by mites, Eriophyidae

Anacardiaceae -- Sumac Family

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More Information:

Sonoran Desert Field Guide
Sonoran Desert Places
Sonoran Desert Naturalist Home Page


Copyright Michael J. Plagens, Page created 12 Aug. 2003,
updated 31 Oct. 2018.