Index of Species Information
SPECIES: Rhus typhina
SPECIES: Rhus typhina
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION :
Sullivan, Janet. 1994. Rhus typhina. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online].
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station,
Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available:
R. hirta (L.) Sudw. 
SCS PLANT CODE :
COMMON NAMES :
The currently accepted scientific name for staghorn sumac is Rhus
typhina L. . Staghorn sumac hybrizes with smooth sumac (R. glabra);
the hybrid has alternately been named R. Xpulvinata Greene  or R.
Xborealis (Britton) Greene [12,16].
LIFE FORM :
FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS :
No special status
OTHER STATUS :
DISTRIBUTION AND OCCURRENCE
SPECIES: Rhus typhina
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION :
The native range of staghorn sumac extends from Cape Breton Island, Nova
Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, southern Quebec, and Maine;
west to southern Ontario, northern Michigan, and northern Minnesota;
south to central Iowa, central Illinois, western Tennessee, and northern
Alabama; and east to northern Georgia, northwestern South Carolina,
Maryland, and New Jersey .
FRES10 White - red - jack pine
FRES13 Loblolly - shortleaf pine
FRES14 Oak - pine
FRES15 Oak - hickory
FRES18 Maple - beech - birch
FRES19 Aspen - birch
AL CT DE GA IL IN IA KY ME MD
MA MI MN NH NJ NY NC OH PA RI
SC TN VT VA WV WI NB NS ON PE
BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS :
KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS :
K095 Great Lakes pine forest
K100 Oak - hickory forest
K102 Beech - maple forest
K103 Mixed mesophytic forest
K104 Appalachian oak forest
K106 Northern hardwoods
K110 Northeastern oak - pine forest
K111 Oak - hickory - pine forest
K112 Southern mixed forest
SAF COVER TYPES :
15 Red pine
18 Paper birch
20 White pine - northern red oak - red maple
21 Eastern white pine
22 White pine - hemlock
23 Eastern hemlock
24 Hemlock - yellow birch
25 Sugar maple - beech - yellow birch
26 Sugar maple - basswood
27 Sugar maple
52 White oak - black oak - northern red oak
53 White oak
55 Northern red oak
60 Beech - sugar maple
64 Sassafras - persimmon
78 Virginia pine - oak
80 Loblolly pine - shortleaf pine
81 Loblolly pine
82 Loblolly pine - hardwood
SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES :
HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES :
Staghorn sumac is primarily a species of forest edges and disturbed
sites. It occurs on the edges of many forest types, and is a frequent
member of early oldfield communities, particularly on dry soils.
SPECIES: Rhus typhina
WOOD PRODUCTS VALUE :
Staghorn sumac wood has been used for handcrafts .
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE :
Staghorn sumac seeds and fruits are eaten by many species of upland
gamebirds, songbirds , and mammals . White-tailed deer 
and moose  browse the leaves and twigs. The bark and twigs are
eaten by rabbits, especially in winter .
Staghorn sumac was listed as a high preference browse for moose on Isle
Royale, Michigan . In southern and central Wisconsin  and
Minnesota  staghorn sumac was listed as fifth in preference for
In New York staghorn sumac fruits were lowest in preference (of
blackberry (Rubus allegheniensis), gray dogwood (Cornus racemosa),
arrow-wood (Viburnum dentatum), and common buckthorn (Rhamnus
cathartica) for birds .
NUTRITIONAL VALUE :
Nutritional values for staghorn sumac fruits (seeds and fruits ground
together) have been reported as follows :
percent of fresh weight
crude protein 5.0
crude fiber 13.37
Northern bobwhites failed to thrive on a diet consisting solely of
staghorn sumac fruits .
COVER VALUE :
Staghorn sumac is planted for wildlife cover in the Northern Great
VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES :
In Maryland and West Virginia, staghorn sumac occurred on strip-mined
sites reclaimed to herbaceous annuals and perennials. The frequency of
staghorn sumac on the sites was positively correlated with its relative
abundance in the adjacent forest edge .
On a site in New Hampshire, the vegetation and upper soil layers were
removed to create a sand pit. Much of the site was left to revegetate
naturally; staghorn sumac presence was noted in a survey conducted 11
years after the site was abandoned .
OTHER USES AND VALUES :
Staghorn sumac is planted as an ornamental , particularly for low
water-use plantings (xeriscaping) , although its habit of producing
root sprouts is detrimental to lawn maintenance . The
infructescence of staghorn sumac is used to make a beverage and jelly
OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS :
Staghorn sumac is sometimes a troublesome invader of cleared sites. It
was reported as abundant in clearcuts, but was not present in the
understory of intact pine (Pinus spp.) plantations in the Great Lakes
States. It was also absent from the germinable seedbank of the intact
BOTANICAL AND ECOLOGICAL CHARACTERISTICS
SPECIES: Rhus typhina
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS :
Staghorn sumac is a native, deciduous tall shrub or small tree growing
up to 40 feet (13.7 m) in height [3,16]. The trunk is usually short,
dividing frequently to form ascending branches . Younger branches,
petioles, and leaf-rachis are densely and softly hirsute . Each
leaf is composed of 9 to 29 leaflets that are lanceolate to narrowly
oblong, 2 to 4.7 inches (5-12 cm) long [12,16]. Leaves are only
produced on new branch segments; old branches do not bear leaves .
The fruit is a drupe 0.08 to 0.2 inch (2-5 mm) broad, covered with long,
spreading, red hairs, in dense, cone-shaped clusters [8,9,12]. The bark
is thin and nearly smooth, but sometimes peels off in layers .
RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM :
REGENERATION PROCESSES :
Sexual reproduction: Staghorn sumac generally produces at least some
seed every year . Over the 4 years of a phenology study in West
Virginia, there were no staghorn sumac crop failures. The author rated
staghorn sumac as one of the most consistent seed bearers .
Colonies that produce seed do so in abundance . Seeds exhibit
dormancy, probably as a result of hard, impermeable seedcoats .
Staghorn sumac seeds were present (intact) in the buried seedbank of an
oldfield site in Virginia . However, staghorn sumac probably
invades new areas via bird-dispersed seed rather than from the seedbank
[1,15]. Germination of staghorn sumac seeds is enhanced by acid
scarification or hot water treatment . In a greenhouse study on the
effects of the amount and kinds of litter on seed germination, it was
reported that the amount, type, or relative composition of litter
(needlelike vs. lamellar leaves) did not significantly affect the number
of staghorn sumac seedlings that emerged .
Vegetative reproduction: Staghorn sumac forms large, dense colonies via
root sprouts [6,40]. This appears to be the mode of reproduction that
results in the largest number of stems; the colonies usually originate,
however, from a single seed [27,29]. Staghorn sumac is dioecious, and
large, single-sexed clumps of stems can form . Within female clumps
within a staghorn sumac population there was a greater incidence of dead
and vegetative trunks than within male clumps (the clumps were assumed
to be clones) . Female trunks, however, grow at the same rate as
male trunks. Female trunks within a clone may draw on the resources of
other, nonfruiting trunks to which they are linked by underground
Root sprout production in staghorn sumac is apparently stimulated by
top-damage; large numbers of sprouts emerged from staghorn sumac
colonies that were top-damaged by frost in Kentucky .
SITE CHARACTERISTICS :
Staghorn sumac occurs on dry, rocky or gravelly soils, in old fields,
clearings, roadsides, forest edges, and open woods [6,33,40,44].
Staghorn sumac is found at elevations ranging from 100 to 2,000 feet
(30-610 m) in the Adirondack Mountains, New York , and at elevations
up to 4,900 feet (1500 m) in the Appalachians .
SUCCESSIONAL STATUS :
Obligate Initial Community Species
Staghorn sumac is not tolerant of shade. In Massachusetts its
occurrence in woodlands is associated with irregular open canopies
and/or sites in or adjacent to light gaps . It is a common invader
of recently abandoned fields [15,24].
Staghorn sumac clone interiors can reduce light intensity up to 90
percent. This creates a situation where new staghorn sumac stems from
root sprouts are unlikely to thrive, and where ground-layer herbs are
also inhibited. Only shade-tolerant species are able to colonize dense
staghorn sumac thickets . In Michigan a staghorn sumac colony came
to dominate two oldfield sites that had thick ground-layer perennials
including quackgrass (Elytrigia repens). As staghorn sumac stems
matured and the canopy closed, ground-layer species decreased. At this
point (7-10 years after abandonment) numerous tree species began to
invade the site. Of the 13 species observed, 9 tended to establish
under staghorn sumac cover and overall hardwood seedling density was
highest under staghorn sumac cover. It was hypothesized by the authors
that staghorn sumac facilitates succession by reducing the amount of
ground cover, thus allowing tree seedlings to establish .
On roadbank sites in northern Kentucky, staghorn sumac reduced the
growth of crownvetch (Coronilla varis) and tall fescue (Festuca
arundinacea). These sites were subsequently invaded by Amur honeysuckle
(Lonicera maackii), but not other tree species. The authors acknowledge
that succession on sites as highly disturbed as roadside embankments is
not likely to be a good model for oldfield or other types of secondary
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT :
Staghorn sumac flowers from May to July, depending on latitude [8,16].
The fruits are usually ripe by September and persist on the tree through
the winter [6,17,31,44].
SPECIES: Rhus typhina
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS :
Staghorn sumac has no apparent adaptations for fire resistance; it is
probably easily top-killed or killed by fire due to its thin bark.
Adaptations for fire survival include sprouting from the roots when
top-killed. In addition, staghorn sumac seeds are apparently somewhat
resistant to high temperatures and may be stimulated to germinate by
fire. It does not appear exclusively (or even with great frequency) in
fire-dependent communities , but it does occasionally occur these
communities. In Vermont, pitch pine (Pinus rigida) communities dominate
cutover areas, and are maintained by fire. Where fire is suppressed,
gray birch (Betula populifolia) cover increases at the expense of pitch
pine. Staghorn sumac was found in low numbers on a 12-year-old clearcut
dominated by gray birch, red maple (Acer rubrum), mapleleaf viburnum
(Viburnum acerifolium), American hazel (Corylus americanum), myrica
(Myrica spp.), and blueridge blueberry (Vaccinium vaccilans). It was
therefore present in either the preharvest community or in an adjacent
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 :
Tree with adventitious-bud root crown/soboliferous species root sucker
SPECIES: Rhus typhina
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT :
Staghorn sumac is probably killed or top-killed by most fires.
DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT :
PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE :
Staghorn sumac may sprout immediately after fire. Skutch  observed
a staghorn sumac shoot 4.3 inches (11 cm) long within 20 days of a
wildfire in a spruce (Picea spp.)-hardwood stand in Maine.
In Michigan staghorn sumac had its highest frequency indices in
postfire years 3 and 51 of a longitudinal study. Bigtooth aspen
(Populus grandidentata) was the early dominant tree species, and was
eventually replaced by red maple (Acer rubrum) and eastern white pine
(Pinus strobus). Northern red oak (Quercus rubra) and paper birch
(Betula papyrifera) also increased in the later years of the study .
Marks  observed abundant staghorn sumac seedlings in northern New
York on sites where logging slash piles had been burned. He noted that
the sites had not contained any adult staghorn sumac stems prior to
harvest, but that staghorn sumac seed sources did exist within 0.37 mile
(0.6 km) of the burns. Staghorn sumac had been present early in
oldfield succession, but had apparently died out. Staghorn sumac
seedlings were restricted to the burned areas, most of them concentrated
on the edges; the centers of the slash piles had experienced extreme
heat. According to Marks, staghorn sumac germination appeared to have
been either directly triggered by the fire or by the fire's effect on
the site . Given the impermeability of the seedcoat, coupled with
the fact that heat treatments will enhance germination, it seems
possible that staghorn sumac seeds were scarified by the fire. High
heat in the centers of slash piles probably killed seeds.
In central New York staghorn sumac was a dominant shrub in an
Acer-Betula-Aster community that established after heavy logging
followed by a severe fire .
DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE :
FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS :
SPECIES: Rhus typhina
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