Field Allotments at Amerton
By Mrs FM
Herbs & Other
Issues And Going Green.
And Other Climbing Plants.
Alan J Hartley
Typhina – Stag’s Horn Sumach.
Coming from North
Eastern America, The Stag’s Horn Sumach is related to the Cotinus, or
Smoke Bush, but is widely cultivated, due to many of its appealing
features. There are numerous cultivars and most varieties are deciduous
but the “Tobacco Sumach - Rhus Virens,” to which it is related is
actually an evergreen. The Sumach is a shrub or relatively small tree
belonging to the Cashew family that may grow to some 15 – 20 feet or
more and is often broader than it is tall.
Unlike its relative, the Cotinus, The Stag’s Horn is very fast growing,
quite invasive and Suckers freely like most Bamboos unless it is
controlled. It is because of this characteristic that it is particularly
good for stabilising large banks of moving, or loose soil. It does also
mean that planted in the wrong place it can become a real nuisance
because it will rapidly make a thick Spinney, however, as it is only
shallow rooted it is not to big a task to remove it if it does. Because
of this free suckering habit some people suggest planting the Sumach in
a slab lined hole as was traditionally done for Fig Trees.
Some of the things that the Sumach has in its favour are the fact that
it is pest and disease free, drought tolerant and will grow in poor
conditions in full sun or parts shade.
The tree is also very attractive with its almost furry like stems and
Trunks with even quite small branches looking quite thick and chunky.
Nor is any part of the tree poisonous, although there is one not very
closely related relative with the same name that has white, or light
green berries that are poisonous, but all varieties with red berries are
ok. Berries have long been eaten and made into a sort of pink lemonade.
Berries of course follow the Flowers that appear in May to July with
separate flowers on Male and Female plants. The flowers themselves are
Greenish white turning to a lovely, rich, velvety red. The Fruits ripen
in late Summer and are eaten by birds who spread the seeds. In many
parts of the World the Berries are picked and dried to be used in making
used spices fruit. The shoots of the Sumach are also sometimes peeled
and eaten raw by some wild food foragers .
The Leaves of the Sumach have their own appeal as they look almost look
like fern fronds and turn vivid shades of reds and yellows in the Atumn.
The Leaves and bark are also rich in tannins that is often used in
leather tanning processes and various dyes can be made from different
parts of the tree.