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SPECIES:  Rhus microphylla
Littleleaf sumac fruits. Image by Patrick J. Alexander, hosted by the USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database.


SPECIES: Rhus microphylla
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION: Harris, Holly T. 1990. Rhus microphylla. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: []. Revisions: Images were added on 22 August 2018.
ABBREVIATION: RHUMIC SYNONYMS: Schmaltzia microphylla NRCS PLANT CODE: RHMI3 COMMON NAMES: littleleaf sumac desert sumac scrub sumac small-leaf sumac TAXONOMY: The scientific name of littleleaf sumac is Rhus microphylla Engelm. ex Gray (Anacardiaceae) [22]. LIFE FORM: Shrub FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS: No special status OTHER STATUS: NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Rhus microphylla
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: Littleleaf sumac occurs in dry desert foothills from southwestern Oklahoma and western Texas to southern Arizona and northern Mexico [10,13,20,31].
Distribution of littleleaf sumac. Map courtesy of USDA, NRCS. 2018. The PLANTS Database. National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC [2018, August 22] [43].
   FRES30  Desert shrub
   FRES32  Texas savanna
   FRES33  Southwestern shrubsteppe
   FRES34  Chaparral - mountain shrub
   FRES35  Pinyon - juniper
   FRES38  Plains grasslands
   FRES40  Desert grasslands


    7  Lower Basin and Range
   12  Colorado Plateau
   13  Rocky Mountain Piedmont

   K023  Juniper - pinyon woodland
   K027  Mesquite bosque
   K031  Oak - juniper woodlands
   K044  Creosote bush - tarbush
   K045  Ceniza shrub
   K054  Grama - tobosa prairie
   K058  Grama - tobosa shrubsteppe
   K059  Trans-Pecos shrub savanna
   K060  Mesquite savanna
   K061  Mesquite - acacia savanna
   K062  Mesquite - live oak savanna
   K085  Mesquite - buffalograss

    68  Mesquite
   242  Mesquite


Littleleaf sumac is not a dominant species or indicator plant in any
published classification scheme.  It commonly occurs in desert
grasslands with such species as black grama (Bouteloua eriopoda) and
tobosa (Hilaria mutica), and in desert shrublands dominated by species
such as oneseed juniper (Juniperus monosperma) and mesquite (Prosopis
spp.) [6,7].  Common plant associates of littleleaf sumac include
creosotebush (Larrea tridentata), catclaw (Acacia greggii), soaptree
yucca (Yucca elata), side-oats grama (B. curtipendula), and bush muhly
(Muhlenbergia porteri) [7,10,18].


SPECIES: Rhus microphylla
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE: Littleleaf sumac is eaten by cattle, sheep, and goats [1,17] but is considered poor quality livestock browse [38]. Mule deer and pronghorn browse littleleaf sumac leaves in Texas and New Mexico [8,9,38]. Various birds and small mammals eat the fruit [13,31]. PALATABILITY: Littleleaf sumac palatability is considered low [13], although the leaves are eaten to some extent by deer, pronghorn, and livestock [1,9,17,31]. Ground squirrels, chipmunks, quail, and various other birds and rodents eat the fruit [11,38]. NUTRITIONAL VALUE: Littleleaf sumac contains approximately 15 percent protein [17]. Considerable weight loss occurred when captive kangaroo rats were given a restricted diet of littleleaf sumac seeds [11]. COVER VALUE: Bottomland habitat containing littleleaf sumac had higher densities of white-tailed deer than other community types in the Rolling Plains of Texas [12]. Littleaf sumac was used for cover in both undisturbed and chained areas, although more deer were seen in undisturbed areas. VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES: Littleleaf sumac has some potential for use in soil stabilization projects [37]. In New Mexico it increased in cover in the absence of grazing, effectively reducing gully erosion [18]. OTHER USES AND VALUES: The fruit of littleleaf sumac is edible but has a sour taste [38]. OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS: Littleleaf sumac is killed by tebuthiuron, 2,4-D, and 2,4,5-T [15].


SPECIES: Rhus microphylla
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS: Littleleaf sumac is a deciduous, perennial shrub reaching heights up to 15 feet (4.5 m) [38]. The branches are crooked, stiff, and intricately branched; the twigs are spinescent. The bark is dark grey to black, smooth when young but becoming scaly with age. Littleleaf sumac leaves are 0.5 to 1.5 inches (1-4 cm) long and pinnately compound with five to nine leaflets. The leaves are a dull green and hairy. Greenish-white flowers occur in dense compound spikes; the hairy, red-orange fruit is a 0.25 inch (0.5 cm) long drupe [38]. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM: Phanerophyte REGENERATION PROCESSES: Littleleaf sumac reproduces both sexually and vegetatively. Seeds of all sumacs (Rhus spp.) have a hard seedcoat and germinate poorly without pretreatment [3,38]. Sumac seed dispersal is almost entirely by birds and other animals [3]. Dry seeds remain viable for 10 to 20 years in open storage [34]. Littleleaf sumac reproduces vegetatively by sprouting after disturbances [42]. All sumacs can be propagated from root cuttings [38]. SITE CHARACTERISTICS: Littleleaf sumac occurs on sandstone, limestone, and granitic parent materials [35]. It occurs in washes, canyons, and arroyos, and on mesas, desert flats, and foothills in semidesert grasslands and desert scrub [6,13,23,31]. Temperatures in these areas range from below freezing to over 100 degrees F (0-40 degrees C), and precipitation ranges from 3 to 16 inches (76-406 mm) annually [7,21,35]. The elevational range of littleleaf sumac is generally 3,000 to 6,500 feet (1,000-2,000 m), but it can range as low as 1,000 feet (300 m) in Texas [5,7,23,31,35,38]. SUCCESSIONAL STATUS: The successional status of littleleaf sumac is not documented. It occurs in semidesert grasslands that have been invaded by shrubs such as mesquite and juniper. Littleleaf sumac apparently occurs in both seral and climax communities [6]. Redberry juniper (Juniperus pinchotii) may create a microclimate conducive to the establishment of littleleaf sumac seedlings [29]. SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT: Littleleaf sumac flowers between March and May [23]. The flowers appear prior to leaf emergence [38]. The fruit ripens from July to August [20].


SPECIES: Rhus microphylla
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS: Most species of sumac are very tolerant of fire due to a capacity for sprouting [4,39]. Littleleaf sumac is considered tolerant of fire, although no research has documented its sprouting ability [39,41]. Seeds of smooth sumac (Rhus glabra) have been shown to be fire adapted, germinating at an increased rate after fire scarifies the seedcoat [26]. Other sumacs are known to have seed stored in the soil for decades, allowing regeneration after fire [30]. Littleleaf sumac may have these same characteristics. FIRE REGIMES: Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under "Find Fire Regimes". POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY: Tall shrub, adventitious-bud root crown


SPECIES: Rhus microphylla
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT: Sumacs are rarely killed by fire [4]. Fire top-kills littleleaf sumac, but the plant persists by sprouting [4]. Seeds in the soil may be scarified by fire, increasing germination rates [26,30]. PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE: Littleleaf sumac reportedly sprouts vigorously after fire [39,41], although no research has documented this response. Skunkbush sumac (Rhus trilobata) sprouts after fire and completely recovers in 10 to 15 years [40]. Many other sumacs sprout from the roots or rhizomes after fire [4,26,39]. Littleleaf sumac may also have seeds stored in the soil which germinate at an increased rate following fire, as is the case for other sumacs [25,26]. FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS: NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Rhus microphylla
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