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

Introductory

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: https://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/plants/shrub/rhumic/all.html []. 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


DISTRIBUTION AND OCCURRENCE

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].
ECOSYSTEMS: 
   FRES30  Desert shrub
   FRES32  Texas savanna
   FRES33  Southwestern shrubsteppe
   FRES34  Chaparral - mountain shrub
   FRES35  Pinyon - juniper
   FRES38  Plains grasslands
   FRES40  Desert grasslands


STATES: 
     AZ  CO  NM  TX  OK  MEXICO



BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS: 
    7  Lower Basin and Range
   12  Colorado Plateau
   13  Rocky Mountain Piedmont


KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS: 
   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


SAF COVER TYPES: 
    68  Mesquite
   242  Mesquite


SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES: 
NO-ENTRY


HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES: 
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].

MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS

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].

BOTANICAL AND ECOLOGICAL CHARACTERISTICS

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].

FIRE ECOLOGY

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

FIRE EFFECTS

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

REFERENCES

SPECIES: Rhus microphylla
REFERENCES: 1. Anderson, Dean M.; Holechek, Jerry L. 1983. Diets obtained from esophageally fistulated heifers and steers simultaneously grazing semidesert tobosa rangeland. In: Proceedings, annual meeting of the American Society of Animal Science, Western Division. 34: 161-164. [4589] 2. Bernard, Stephen R.; Brown, Kenneth F. 1977. Distribution of mammals, reptiles, and amphibians by BLM physiographic regions and A.W. Kuchler's associations for the eleven western states. Tech. Note 301. Denver, CO: U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management. 169 p. [434] 3. Brinkman, Kenneth A. 1974. Rhus L. sumac. In: Schopmeyer, C. S., technical coordinator. Seeds of woody plants in the United States. Agric. Handb. 450. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 715-719. [6921] 4. Britton, Carlton M.; Wright, Henry A. 1983. Brush management with fire. In: McDaniel, Kirk C., ed. Proceedings--brush management symposium; 1983 February 16; Albuquerque, NM. Denver, CO: Society for Range Management: 61-68. [521] 5. Bowers, Janice E.; McLaughlin, Steven P. 1987. Flora and vegetation of the Rincon Mountains, Pima County, Arizona. Desert Plants. 8(2): 50-94. [495] 6. Brown, David E. 1982. Semidesert grassland. In: Brown, David E., ed. Biotic communities of the American Southwest--United States and Mexico. Desert Plants. 4(1-4): 123-131. [3603] 7. Brown, David E. 1982. Chihuahuan desertscrub. In: Brown, David E., ed. Biotic communities of the American Southwest--United States and Mexico. Desert Plants. 4(1-4): 169-179. [3607] 8. Bryant, Fred C.; Morrison, Bruce. 1985. Managing plains mule deer in Texas and eastern New Mexico. Management Note 7. Lubbock, TX: Texas Tech University, College of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Range and Wildlife Management. 5 p. [187] 9. Buechner, Helmut K. 1950. Life history, ecology, and range use of the pronghorn antelope in Trans-Pecos Texas. American Midland Naturalist. 43(2): 257-354. [4084] 10. Campbell, C. J.; Dick-Peddie, W. A. 1964. Comparison of phreatophyte communities on the Rio Grande in New Mexico. Ecology. 45(3): 492-502. [7003] 11. Chew, Robert M.; Chew, Alice Eastlake. 1970. Energy relationships of the mammals of a desert shrub (Larrea tridentata) community. Ecological Monographs. 40(1): 1-21. [5055] 12. Darr, Gene W.; Klebenow, Donald A. 1975. Deer, brush control, and livestock on the Texas Rolling Plains. Journal of Range Management. 28(2): 115-119. [10071] 13. Dayton, William A. 1931. Important western browse plants. Misc. Publ. 101. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture. 214 p. [768] 14. Dick-Peddie, William A.; Hubbard, John P. 1977. Classification of riparian vegetation. In: Johnson, R. Roy; Jones, Dale A., technical coordinators. Importance, preservation and management of riparian habitat: a symposium: Proceedings; 1977 July 9; Tucson, AZ. Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-43. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station: 85-90. Available from: NTIS, Springfield, VA 22151; PB-274 582. [5338] 15. Emmerich, W. E.; Helmer, J. D.; Renard, K. G.; Lane, L. J. 1984. Fate and effectiveness of tebuthiuron applied to a rangeland watershed. Journal of Environmental Quality. 13(3): 382-386. [3969] 16. Eyre, F. H., ed. 1980. Forest cover types of the United States and Canada. Washington, DC: Society of American Foresters. 148 p. [905] 17. Fraps, G. S.; Cory, V. L. 1940. Composition and utilization of range vegetation of Sutton and Edwards Counties. Bulletin No. 58. College Station, TX: Texas Agricultural Experiment Station. 39 p. [5746] 18. Gardner, J. L. 1951. Vegetation of the creosotebush area of the Rio Grande Valley in New Mexico. Ecological Monographs. 21: 379-403. [4243] 19. Garrison, George A.; Bjugstad, Ardell J.; Duncan, Don A.; [and others]. 1977. Vegetation and environmental features of forest and range ecosystems. Agric. Handb. 475. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 68 p. [998] 20. Great Plains Flora Association. 1986. Flora of the Great Plains. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas. 1392 p. [1603] 21. Havard, V. 1885. Report on the flora of western and southern Texas. Proceedings of the United States National Museum. 8(29): 449-533. [5067] 22. Kartesz, John T.; Kartesz, Rosemarie. 1980. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. Volume II: The biota of North America. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press; in confederation with Anne H. Lindsey and C. Richie Bell, North Carolina Botanical Garden. 500 p. [6954] 23. Kearney, Thomas H.; Peebles, Robert H.; Howell, John Thomas; McClintock, Elizabeth. 1960. Arizona flora. 2d ed. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. 1085 p. [6563] 24. Kuchler, A. W. 1964. Manual to accompany the map of potential vegetation of the conterminous United States. Special Publication No. 36. New York: American Geographical Society. 77 p. [1384] 25. Little, Elbert L., Jr. 1979. Checklist of United States trees (native and naturalized). Agric. Handb. 541. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 375 p. [2952] 26. Lovell, J. F. 1964. An ecological study of Rhus glabra L. Manhattan, KS: Kansas State University. 84 p. Dissertation. [4963] 27. Lyon, L. Jack; Stickney, Peter F. 1976. Early vegetal succession following large northern Rocky Mountain wildfires. In: Proceedings, Tall Timbers fire ecology conference and Intermountain Fire Research Council fire and land management symposium; 1974 October 8-10; Missoula, MT. No. 14. Tallahassee, FL: Tall Timbers Research Station: 355-373. [1496] 28. Martin, S. Clark. 1980. Mesquite. In: Eyre, F. H., ed. Forest cover types of the United States and Canada. Washington, DC: Society of American Foresters: 118. [9858] 29. McPherson, Guy R.; Wright, Henry A.; Wester, David B. 1988. Patterns of shrub invasion in semiarid Texas grasslands. American Midland Naturalist. 120(2): 391-397. [7197] 30. Olmsted, Norwood W.; Curtis, James D. 1947. Seeds of the forest floor. Ecology. 28(1): 49-52. [9904] 31. Powell, A. Michael. 1988. Trees & shrubs of Trans-Pecos Texas including Big Bend and Guadalupe Mountains National Parks. Big Bend National Park, TX: Big Bend Natural History Association. 536 p. [6130] 32. Rasmussen, G. Allen; McPherson, Guy R.; Wright, Henry A. 1986. Prescribed burning juniper communities in Texas. Management Note 10. Lubbock, TX: Texas Tech University, College of Agricultural Sciences. 5 p. [4043] 33. Raunkiaer, C. 1934. The life forms of plants and statistical plant geography. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 632 p. [2843] 34. Shaw, N. 1984. Producing bareroot seedlings of native shrubs. In: Murphy, P. M., compiler. The challenge of producing native plants for the Intermountain area: Proceedings, Intermountain Nurseryman's Association conference; 1983 August 8-11; Las Vegas, NV. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-168. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station: 6-15. [6850] 35. Shreve, Forrest. 1942. The desert vegetation of North America. Botanical Review. 8(4): 195-246. [5051] 36. Shreve, Forrest. 1942. Grassland and related vegetation in northern Mexico. Madrono. 6: 190-198. [5058] 37. Thornburg, Ashley A. 1982. Plant materials for use on surface-mined lands. SCS-TP-157. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service. 88 p. [3769] 38. Vines, Robert A. 1960. Trees, shrubs, and woody vines of the Southwest. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. 1104 p. [7707] 39. Wright, Henry A. 1972. Shrub response to fire. In: McKell, Cyrus M.; Blaisdell, James P.; Goodin, Joe R., eds. Wildland shrubs--their biology and utilization: Proceedings of a symposium; 1971 July; Logan, UT. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-1. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station: 204-217. [2611] 40. Wright, Henry A. 1980. The role and use of fire in the semidesert grass-shrub type. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-85. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 24 p. [2616] 41. Wright, Henry A.; Bailey, Arthur W. 1982. Fire ecology: United States and southern Canada. New York: John Wiley & Sons. 501 p. [2620] 42. Stickney, Peter F. 1989. Seral origin of species originating in northern Rocky Mountain forests. Unpublished draft on file at: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, MT; RWU 4403 files. 7 p. [20090] 43. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service. 2018. PLANTS Database, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service (Producer). Available: https://plants.usda.gov/. [34262] 44. U.S. Department of the Interior, National Biological Survey. [n.d.]. NP Flora [Data base]. Davis, CA: U.S. Department of the Interior, National Biological Survey. [23119]

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