Getting rid of Sumacs

Nitesteamer(z4WI)March 2, 2004

On the south side of my woodlot there is a large grouping of Sumac (probably staghorn).

There are some attractive older specimens in the grouping, right along the edge of the woods.

The problem is that the sumac are spreading (root clones?) out into the meadow about 50 feet.

I want to eliminate the encroaching sumac to save that part of the meadow.

  1. Is it UNWISE to leave a narrow strip of bigger sumacs along the edge of the woods?

  2. If I use Round-up on the encroaching sumac clones, will the Round-up travel thru rthe root system and kill the big "parent" sumacs?

  3. Should I mow the encroaching clones a few times, or would that just multiply the problem?

Any advise is appreciated! Greg

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John_Blakeman(z5/6 OH)

If the sumacs came here as an invasive from Asia, they would be regarded as a horrible detriment to native plant communities. It's a native, so most don't pay enough attention to the species.

In short, you either eliminate all sumac stems that you can see, or they will in time take over. Cut off all stems and paint with some sort of glyphosate solution (someone else will have to tell us the proper dilution, if any). Don't think that you can retain some nice ornamental large specimens on the edge. The emerging new stems all orginate from these. Until all the sumacs are gone, sumacs will bedevil your efforts. Take 'em all out.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2004 at 10:57AM
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Rosa(4ish CO Rockie)

Read the labels for proper dilution but believe that for the cut stump application John mentions it is a solution from 50% to 100% (undiluted) glyphosate or Roundup product. For imazapyr (Arsenal) the dilution is to 2 parts chem to 1 part water (I use this on tamarisk and it works really well). Use a a surfactant as indicated on the label-you won't be sorry for spending the extra few dollars on this. Treat anytime except spring when the sap is running. We do this here just before flowering until fall.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2004 at 8:56AM
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One good thing about sumac (in addition to its gorgeous fall color): The inconspicous, but abundant greenish flowers on two-year-old stems of sumac are a very popular and important nectar source for a wide variety of pollinators, at a time of year (early summer) when other sources of copious nectar are relatively few.

However, as indicated by John Blakeman's statement sumac is a very invasive native plant. To answer your question #2, you can theoretically maintain some large specimens while keeping them out of your meadow, since in this plant there seems to be limited translocation of herbicides from small peripheral shoots to the large central "headquarters" of the plant. In other words, one can kill side shoots of this tough plant by spraying the leaves with regular dilution glyphosate (RoundUP, and knock-offs), without killing the whole clone. (Cut stump treatments, because of the concentration of herbicide, are more likely to translocate.) But, if you decide to do this, realize ahead of time that your are committing yourself to yearly management of this sumac clump to keep it confined to where you want. Annual mowing or burning keeps this plant from completely taking over, and slows its rate of spread to a crawl, but does not kill it.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2004 at 11:02AM
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chloect(z5 CT)

It depends on the time you have to devote. We manage our sumac clumps by cutting back wandering babies. This is not difficult, but it requires attention on a yearly to bi-yearly basis. I think it is worth it because the fall color really enhances our garden. Nothing beats it, that combo of blue, yellow, orange, slowly blending to a pure red...

    Bookmark   March 11, 2004 at 9:10PM
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Thank you all for the valuable information.

The mature sumacs will get a Temporary stay-of-execution, although the words of John B may come back to haunt me!

    Bookmark   March 13, 2004 at 8:28PM
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growershower(Z7, MD)

Roundup poisons the planet.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2005 at 10:13PM
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joepyeweed(5b IL)

have you been burning? are you in an area that you can do a prescribed burn with the help of a certified burn professional?

if so burning helps control the small suckers while leaving the larger tree intact.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2005 at 10:52PM
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It is the method that kept woodies under control and prevented succesion before we got here.
Plus safe prescribed burning is great family entertainment between fall and spring.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2005 at 2:30PM
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I think it would take a lot of burning to control sumacs. I have heard that repeatedly burning (or cutting) sumacs in early summer (I think), after the plants have invested lots of energy in new growth, will eventually weaken the clump. Not sure how long it will take though!

    Bookmark   October 11, 2005 at 5:33PM
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joepyeweed(5b IL)

my mothers back yard is a native remnant that was being taken over by lots of sumacs. She burns the area every spring. The sumac saplings are dying off. The dead saplings have become frequent perches and nest sites for hummingbirds.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2005 at 6:10PM
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We easily maintain a sumac "hedge" for the blooms, berries and fall color as well as the bird and butterfly enjoyment. We just bush-hog the unwanted ones, once a year.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2005 at 2:34PM
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joepyeweed(5b IL)

I certainly agree that sumacs have beautiful fall color and are a great for birds. But you do have to keep them under control or they will take over.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2005 at 7:53PM
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In this year when some parts of the country are extremely dry, just a reminder. Prescribed burns require enough extra help to control things if the wind picks up or sparks go too far. Needless to say, in dry areas like mine, the burn bans prohibit burning, as they should.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2006 at 11:34PM
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sumac came up inmy asparagus bed last year. After spending most of last year pulling and cuttng it back I was out looking today and find that it looks like it is coming back. Is there anything I can use that will not kill my asparagus too?

    Bookmark   March 15, 2009 at 4:50PM
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