Skunkbush Sumac

Rhus trilobata
(Rhus aromatica trilobata)

Rhus trilobata Pen & Ink illustration © by Michael Plagens

Drawn from live specimen found in Maricopa County, Arizona.

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The berries are eaten by birds and the leaves play host to a variety of insects and mites. The finger-shaped galls in the thumb-image below are caused by minute mites (arachnids) feeding and growing inside.

Skunkbush Gall-Mite

leaf gall caused by mites, Eriophyidae

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. 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 a very common component of the understory in sycamore canyons and can be found in most shady canyons in Arizona. It is also found in the understory of the pinelands. Rhus aromatica of the eastern United States is very similar save for slight differences in scent and the level of pubescence on the fruit. Botanists have considered them conspecific.

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

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


Anacardiaceae -- Sumac Family

More Information:

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Arizona Naturalist
Sycamore Canyons
The Flora of Arizona's Sycamore Canyons


Copyright Michael J. Plagens, page created 17 July 2010,
updated 27 March 2016.