Sumac Trees

shadow_Z3(z3 MB)October 25, 2004

I have just planted a "Smooth Sumac" tree in my back yard. I have been admiring a very large tree in my neighborhood that may be some type of sumac, maybe a staghorn, as it is 2 stories high. If anyone has either of these trees, I would like some feedback on anything having to do with these trees. I would really appreciate it. Thanks!!

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rickey16(S. Ontario z6)

Wow....I did not know they could grow up there! I believe they are native to subtropical regions. I have a friend who just planted one this summer. They do best in the east. When fall arrives, they come to a Bright (Brilliant) Red. Here, in Southern Ontario, they are everywhere!

    Bookmark   October 26, 2004 at 7:32PM
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I planted one last year. It has done fairly well. After the first winter there was some winterkill and it was slow to leaf out but then came back with lots of vigour. There are LOTS of suckers (can you dig them out and transplant them?) It turns a beautiful red in the fall. Unfortunately the main stem broke for some reason (I suspect kids) so I don't know how it will grow next year, maybe it will be a bush now.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2004 at 9:42PM
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I have them in the borders of our yard. They are beautiful this time of year.
I enjoy them also because of the pretty songbirds that are attracted to them..Especially the Bluebirds..
Good luck with yours .

    Bookmark   October 30, 2004 at 12:05PM
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Hi. I have a few sumac that I mailordered. The catalog said they were cut leaf sumac. They are about six or seven years old, about two stories now. The leaves are long and rounded at the tips. The color was incredible this year. My sister has given me two staghorns that she had in pots. Hope they make it in the pots here too! The leaves are long but jagged all along the length.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2004 at 10:44AM
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dan112(S Ontario z6)

Yeah, we've got them everywhere in southern ontario. They mostly grow where forest has been cut back such as along roads and near farm fields etc. They grow best with lots of light. I like the look of them because some of them look just like palm trees. It feels very tropical when you drive down a road that is surrounded by them.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2004 at 11:18PM
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rickey16(S. Ontario z6)

Yeah, Dan112....I totally agree.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2004 at 4:55PM
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shapiro(5a Ontario)

To Shadow in Zone 3: Sumacs do not grow to be 2 stories tall, it's not possible. I believe that what you are thinking of is "Ailanthus altissima" also known as the Tree of Heaven. This tree looks a lot like a sumac because it has the large compound leaf, similar to sumac. But unless my memory is very faulty, Tree of Heaven unfortunately does not turn that beautiful red in the fall.

Sumacs by nature are maybe 7 to 10 feet tall, no more. Does anyone else agree?

    Bookmark   November 3, 2004 at 9:17PM
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I'm sure mine are sumac and they are about two stories. I wish I knew how to post a pic. I'm going to have to work on it.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2004 at 4:20PM
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Doubt this'll work, it's my first try.

Nope, won't let me paste. Dang it! I know I can do it, can anyone help me please? How do I get the picture from my album in webshots to appear here?

    Bookmark   November 4, 2004 at 5:41PM
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dan112(S Ontario z6)

I've seen some fairly tall sumacs. I was working in an area of the city by Lake Ontario for the summer and lots of houses in the area had sumacs growing. Most of them were up to the roof, and some were past the roof, so they were getting up over one storey anyways.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2004 at 2:11AM
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shadow_Z3(z3 MB)

I really appreciate all the feedback I am getting on my sumac. I bought a 7 ft. " smooth sumac" from a garden centre and took a 2 ft. piece from the 2 storey "staghorn sumac". The piece of sumac (2ft.) I dug up from a yard not far from my area, was in full leaf in the summer/fall and the mother tree was 2 stories tall. If I had the printer to do so, I would make the picture available for you to see. It is a beautiful tree, and have never seen anything like it before. These 2 trees are now in my yard, and am really happy for it, although I guess I will have to watch suckering and flying seeds, (although, I have been digging up new trees in my yard from my neighbors for a while.) If at all possible, I will post a pic of these trees on this website.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2004 at 9:55PM
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Crazy_Gardener(Z2b AB Canada)

I had a Staghorn growing in my old garden in Saskatoon zone 3 in a sheltered spot near the house, it was about 16 years old when it eventually died.

Anyone have seeds? I'm curious if they would survive out here in the wilderness.


p.s> if you want to post photos to the forums, go to and set up an account. It will give you codes to post your photos.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2004 at 4:14PM
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shadow_Z3(z3 MB)

To Shapiro 5a Ont.
Just to let you know, the 2 ft. piece I dug up from the 2 storey mother tree was light brown and velvety soft, as a "Staghorn Sumac" is supposed to be, as well, the owner informed me that it is a "Sumac". The guy at the nursery seen the picture I had on hand, and informed me that it could not be in Manitoba, until he found out that I had taken the picture myself only a couple of weeks before in Winnipeg, MB. I know that is probably unusual for this type of tree to grow so well in our zone, but I can only hope that my little piece of it will grow at least 10-15 ft. tall. Anyhow, thanks again for all your input. It is very much appreciated.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2004 at 8:10PM
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Both my cutleaf and staghorn have velvety wood. What is the leaf shape? Is it smooth and rounded, or jagged? I've seen some tiger eye sumac this year at a couple of nurseries. Think the leaves were jagged on those too.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2004 at 4:48PM
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shadow_Z3(z3 MB)

To October17 in Chicago, thanks for the feedback. The 7 ft. "smooth sumac" I purchased has smooth wood. (They also had "tiger eye sumac" at the time) The leaves were jagged. The small piece that I dug up had a light brown velvet wood and the leaves were also jagged. Apparently, the "tiger eye" is a zone 4, and only grows to 6 ft.,(but who knows till you grow one yourself, right.) Anyhow, I now have these in my yard and as of a couple of days ago, have quite a bit of snow surrounding them, so I will have to wait till spring to see what happens. I don't really need them to grow 2 stories tall, but it would be nice if they reached about 10 or 11 ft. anyways. If I somehow ended up with a "tiger eye" instead, then that's okay, as long as it grows and stays healthy.(Sounds like I'm talking about kids, doesn't it, ha!) Anyways, have a really nice winter and I'll let you know in the spring/summer what my tree turns out like. Take Care!

    Bookmark   November 27, 2004 at 6:09PM
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Someone told me how to post a pic. But I'm not sure that everyone will be able to see it. It has the word "security" in the URL so, would someone let me know if they can see it or not? Thanks. The fence is 6'.

Here is a link that might be useful: tall sumacs

    Bookmark   November 29, 2004 at 1:04PM
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I'm so sorry to try everyone's patience, but one more try for the tall sumacs. People have responded and tried to help me. I'm so grateful.

Here is a link that might be useful: tall sumac retry

    Bookmark   November 29, 2004 at 2:57PM
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sheryl_ontario(Muncho Lake, BC z2)

My neighbor got one from the woods, definately a sumac, and planted it in her backyard. Its much taller than her house now, at least two stories tall and brilliant red in the fall. However, it also puts out runners and grows sumacs all over the place. She now has three big ones and the neighbors are constantly digging them out of their yards. They sure are beautiful and very hardy. I put one in a half barrel pot and it survived the winter there.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2004 at 5:48AM
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I had the same experience as Sheryl's neighbor. I planted a sumac - had it for a couple of years, and then there were suckers all over my neighbor's lawn. I had to dig it out and pull out all the suckers - it took about 3 days. Otherwise it was a wonderful plant!

    Bookmark   December 4, 2004 at 10:32PM
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I got it!!!!!!! This one should work for everyone. Thank you to all those folks out there who helped me!!!!

Oh, my sumacs are planted on the edge of my property. On the other side of that fence is parking lot.

Here is a link that might be useful: This will work

    Bookmark   December 8, 2004 at 7:15PM
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sheryl_ontario(Muncho Lake, BC z2)

Those are sumacs alright. They're one of my favourites, so beautiful in the fall when everything else is dying. And they're such a manageable size. The only drawback is the suckers.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2004 at 4:32PM
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nushie(5a / 5b)

I know that the Sumac roots run shallow in the ground. Just wondering as too how deep they are... a ft or less/more. Also too transplant a Staghorn Sucker, is there a suggested size.. min/max height i should try too plant to be successfull.I was looking at ones that were 3-4ft high, but perhaps a smaller one would take better. Anyone know how much they grow in a season?? i've heard 18 inches. Thanks for any suggestions

    Bookmark   March 18, 2005 at 6:41AM
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shadow_Z3(z3 MB)

Hi Nushie

I would like to know as well about transplanting. A friend of mine at work would like a piece of my sumac, even though I have told her about all the problems that we face. Is there anyone out there who has any expertise about this?

    Bookmark   March 18, 2005 at 9:34PM
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growershower(Z7, MD)

I believe "Shapiro" is correct. Sumacs top out at around 15 feet. If your tree is taller, it's probably Ailanthus altissima which reaches 40 to 60 feet at maturity.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2006 at 12:21AM
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I worked and worked to get sumac to grow for me, from cuttings,transplants, etc from the woods. Finally sprung for stock from conservation district. Oh, my! I love everything about them, but the suckers are a serious problem and I am now worried about drain pipes, etc. But. I think it is a great border plant. I read somewhere that you should put in an undergorund barrier, which would also limit height a bit. Enjoy. I cannot imagine that they will not eventually grow for you.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2006 at 5:54PM
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jancarkner(Ottawa CAN)

I just got a Tiger Eye sumac! Can anyone confirm that these don't spread, or spread less than other sumacs?

I also have cut-leaf sumac, which is starting to send up little shoots. Anyone in the Ottawa area who wants some, just contact me! I love them, but they need to keep their place.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2006 at 4:12PM
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I planted 3 sumac trees in the corner of my property approx. 8 years ago. They flourished (15-18 ft. high) I regularly pinched off the suckers as they came up in order to keep the 3 trees contained in the corner. After a few years I noticed the suckers were getting VERY far afield from the trees themselves. (up to 35-40 ft.) which worried me. Just how aggressive were these roots growing beneath the surface??

Well... I found out!! Because sumac wood is so soft, the tree trunks began to split. I determined it was time for them to go. I cut them down and had a root chipper come in to grind the stumps to 1 foot beneath the surface. Well...the root system went absolutely burserk... sending up suckers EVERYWHERE at an alarming rate and such a wide area! I spent a month pinching them off at ground level, but that only accelerated their activity.

I began the back-breaking process of digging up the roots. What a job!!! AND... what a mess!! I have removed 5 large garden-waste bags FULL of sumac roots (so far) and there's still more to go. Moreover, the sumac knows no property boundaries and spread into my neighbor's yard. He was NOT impressed.

The sumac looks very nice... especially in the fall. But be warned... they tend to split and the root system spreads far more aggressively than you can imagine. Getting rid of the tree will be a lengthy, difficult and expensive proposition. It's NOT worth it!!

    Bookmark   July 21, 2008 at 10:56AM
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I hear ya clancy. My sumacs were growing into the phone/pwr/cable wires so they had to go. Cut them down this spring, ever since then, suckers everywhere! How about that stuff that kills weeds, root and all. Maybe if I spray the suckers and put a plastic bag over it, the roots will die too. Anyone get rid of sumac without digging up all those roots?

    Bookmark   July 21, 2008 at 8:56PM
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Before grinding the stumps down I drilled multiple holes in them and applied WipeOut....No effect. I later tried directly treating the sucker leaves with WipeOut. It did kill the individual sucker but did not damage the root. (Additionally... it left dead spots on the lawn)

So I waited for a lot of rain to fall and started digging the next day. The roots are 1" to 5" beneath the surface so they can be most easily dug up when the ground is soaked through.

I pry a section of root up with a shovel and grab hold of it... trying to yank a good 3,4,5 foot section up at one time. I won't kid you, its tough work. Sometimes the root comes up with little damage to the lawn... most other times though, some lawn comes up too. It will take at least a year before the lawn will be the same.

Hopefully someone else here has a better solution for you. Good luck.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2008 at 10:00PM
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Gee I have been trying for about 4 yrs to grow a Sumac. Gets to about 10" tall and that's it. Then winter comes and it starts all over again next year.By what I'm reading maybe I shud just be happy that it's not invading my yard.But I still will keep on trying.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2008 at 9:15AM
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glen3a(Winnipeg MB 3A)

Smooth sumac (rhus glabra) is supposedly hardier (zone 2b) than staghorn sumac (rhus typhina)(zone 3b). Maybe that's why your sumac continually dies to the snowline each winter.

I did plant a rhus typhina 'tiger eyes' but from what I read it might be "touch and go" here. That is, it might make it, but might not, or might be one of those plants that hangs on but doesn't grow very much overall.

I saw someone a few streets over with a sumac, not sure of the type, but it's about 3 feet tall and currently has the red plume type of bloom. Very attractive. To me this plant has a tropical feel to it. The only thing stopping me is the fact that they sucker like crazy and grow quite wide (my yard is small and I don't want to devote the entire yard to one plant, LOL).


    Bookmark   August 1, 2008 at 12:26PM
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Around here, Staghorn sumac just seems to grow all by itself whenever the forest is cut down. It is frequently found in waste areas, old dumps, etc.
I like this tree (shrub) because you can make a nice tea from the ripe berries. Just pick and pour boiling water over them.
Steep for a few minute. Add sugar. Tastes like lemonade but slightly different. High in vitamin C I'd guess.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2008 at 1:10AM
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I have worked as an arborist for some time now an it sounds like what Clancy had was a Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima), which is also known as the Chinese Sumac. Be forewarned, the Tree of Heaven is prevalent all over the country and is listed as one of the top 10 invasives in the country. These trees are beautiful to look at, but in some parts of the country they have been known to suck the nutrients out of the ground and kill off other plant species. Here is a link to a great site that will tell you more about it.

Here is a link that might be useful: PCA

    Bookmark   October 29, 2008 at 8:15PM
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jroot(5A Ont. Canada (near Guelph))

My sister has sumacs at the rear of her property. Suckers appear from nowhere, as far as 40 feet from the parent plant. Unbelievable. They have massive burning of the sumacs every few years across the valley, but they keep coming back.

That being said, I understand that some are agressive and other are not.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2008 at 5:20PM
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Bogart(6 Ont.)

I love the sumacs on my country property - note the word country. I have no problems with them growing in the roadside ditch or on the edges of the forested areas - they don't grow at all under a canopy. When they sprout up in the grassy areas abutting the woods they simply get mowed down with everything else, or pulled up if they start to encroach into the gardens.

I wonder if people growing them in the city have tried just mowing - if a tree can't get nutrients via sunlight even the roots will die off eventually, I would think.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2008 at 1:11PM
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jroot(5A Ont. Canada (near Guelph))

My sister mows hers down regularly. They still keep popping up in the middle of her grassed in yard, and also her vegetable garden.

There are some agressive sumacs, and some that are supposedly not agressive. I planted at the edge of my cedar bush which is supposedly not agressive. We'll have to see.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2008 at 10:19PM
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Have two one 15 one 11 yrs old, planted by me. Beautiful red and yellow leaves fall, cut and dry em for winter use, between wax paper since they curl. Spray with clear to help hold to thin 'branch' or use drop of clear hobby glue.
In a cultivated lot, a real nuisance. Spreads prolifically by roots, many MANY roots that sprout up small trees. Mower does NOT kill em, Weed killer barely. Now what, dig it all up??? Arrrgh.
USE this beauty with care, or in a unlandscapted lot..


    Bookmark   July 11, 2009 at 9:18AM
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Hi, I am the original poster of this question, just rejoined under a new name. I had to cut down my smooth sumac as it kept getting a fungal/mildew issue. I still have the staghorn, which looks great. I do dig out suckers once every couple of weeks, but so far (6 years) it has been worth it. I also purchased an Aralia Spinosa, or "Devil's Walking Stick", which suckers fairly fast too, howver another beauty, if not VERY thorny. Thanks for all of your input and advice.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2010 at 10:39PM
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glen3a(Winnipeg MB 3A)

Further to 'Tiger Eyes' it (from what I researched) apparently suckers less than the species, though still may sucker somewhat. I planted one about 4 years ago. It's about 3 feet high and starting to get fairly wide. Not the quickest growing but it's nice that it doesn't need trimming each year.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2010 at 12:09AM
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I'm growing one in a pot right now - I am wondering if I should buy a really big pot to plant it in the ground with to keep the roots in check???

I have some pics and a video of smooth sumac at my site I am making:

Here is a link that might be useful: Tropical Plants in Minnesota

    Bookmark   August 22, 2010 at 7:42AM
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I have a humongous smooth sumac out front of my house.I am at the very so.tip of Ohio.Its grown outward due to kids climbing on it,otherwise it would easily be easily 2's very hard to mitake the tree of heaven with smooth sumac due to completely different leaves,tree of heaven has no tropical are Same color in fall though,but also a different look as well...if any one would like a picture e mailed i can..pasdark8843 at yahoo

    Bookmark   August 28, 2013 at 11:46AM
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To all those who have been helpful in suggesting the tree in question is a Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima)...the OP in in Manitoba, Canada (zone 3 in a good year). Thankfully, it is not hardy there.

Any 'Sumac' in zone 3 or zone 4 that is taller than 30' is likely a Butternut (Juglans cinerea) or perhaps Black Walnut (Juglans nigra)

    Bookmark   August 28, 2013 at 4:46PM
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Here in southwest CT they are enormous, like the size of small oaks. I know one here in Stamford that looks tropical, like a mango or something. I can tell its not a walnut because of the blooms and veins on the leaves. If you want a tropical look in a subtropical-warm temperate landscape this is the way to go.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 7:53PM
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