Rhus copallinum

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Rhus copallinum
Rhus copallinum.jpg
Photo taken by Michelle Smith
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Tracheophyta- Vascular plants
Class: Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons
Order: Sapindales
Family: Anacardiaceae
Genus: Rhus
Species: R. copallinum
Binomial name
Rhus copallinum
RHUS COPA dist.jpg
Natural range of Rhus copallinum from USDA NRCS Plants Database.

Common names: Winged sumac, Flameleaf sumac, Shining sumac

Taxonomic notes

Synonym: Rhus copallina L.; R. leucantha Jacquin; R. obtusifolia (Small) Small; R. copallina var. leucantha (Jacquin) A.P. de Candolle

Varieties: Rhus copallinum Linnaeus var. copallinum, R. copallinum Linnaeus var. latifolia. Engler


"Upright shrubs or small trees, not poisonous. Leaves once-pinnately compound. Inflorescence a terminal panicle. Drupes red, ripening in the autumn. Seeds smooth. Flowers produced after the leaves." [1] "Rhizomatous shrub or small tree to 7 m tall; stems densely short-pubescent. Leaflets 9-23 (mostly 9-11), sessile, oblong to elliptic, 3-8 cm long, 1-4 cm wide, acute to acuminate, entire or less frequently crenate to serrate, base cuneate to rarely rounded, glabrous or densely pubescent beneath; rachis winged. Panicle 0.5-3 dm long and usually as broad. Drupe densely short-pubescent, 3-4 mm broad. Seeds 2.5-3 mm long." [1]




R. copallinum habitats include old fields, oak-hickory woods, oak scrubs, marsh banks, roadsides, and sand ridges. [2]


Blooms July to August. [3]

Seed dispersal

This species is thought to be dispersed by consumption by vertebrates. [4]

Seed bank and germination

The rhizomes, flowers, fruits, senescent leaves and leaf litter contain toxins that significantly inhibit both seed germination and seedling growth of climax prairie and weedy species. [5] Seed germination responds positively to heat shock with highest germination rates at 90 C.[6]

Fire ecology

Fire stimulates root and root collar sprouting along with enhancing germination, making this a fire-climax species. Density declines 3 to 4 years following a fire, with fire exclusion reducing density and cover. [7] Seeds respond positively to heat shock, suggesting that its germination is dependent on or facilitated by fire.[8]


The following Hymenoptera families and species were observed visiting flowers of Rhus copallinum at Archbold Biological Station:[9]

Colletidae: Colletes mandibularis

Halictidae: Augochlora pura, Augochlorella aurata, Augochloropsis sumptuosa, Lasioglossum pectoralis, L. placidensis

Leucospididae: Leucospis robertsoni

Megachilidae: Coelioxys sayi, Megachile xylocopoides

Pompilidae: Episyron conterminus posterus, Poecilopompilus interruptus, Tachypompilus f. ferrugineus

Sphecidae: Cerceris flavofasciata floridensis, C. tolteca, Ectemnius rufipes ais, Isodontia apicalis, Oxybelus decorosum, Palmodes dimidiatus, Philanthus ventilabris, Sphex ichneumoneus, Tachysphex similis

Vespidae: Eumenes fraternus, Monobia quadridens, Pachodynerus erynnis, Parancistrocerus fulvipes rufovestris, Parancistrocerus perennis anacardivora, Parancistrocerus salcularis rufulus, Polistes dorsalis hunteri, Stenodynerus beameri, Stenodynerus pulvinatus surrufus, Vespula maculifrons, Vespula squamosa, Zethus spinipes

Use by animals

The foliage is a food source for the caterpillar Pyrrhia umbra. [10] The berries are eaten by wild turkeys and songbirds. [7] Birds have been observed to choose fruits of R. copallina rather than fruits of R. glabra when they were both available as winter foods. This could be due to the higher caloric value and larger fruits of R. copallinum.[11]

Diseases and parasites

Fusarium wilt infects the roots, causing the leaves to droop and wilt. [12]

Conservation and management

Cultivation and restoration

Photo Gallery

References and notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 Radford, Albert E., Harry E. Ahles, and C. Ritchie Bell. Manual of the Vascular Flora of the Carolinas. 1964, 1968. The University of North Carolina Press. 678. Print.
  2. Florida State University Robert K. Godfrey Herbarium database. URL: http://herbarium.bio.fsu.edu. Last accessed: March 2016. Collectors: Loran C. Anderson, Tom Barnes, Kathy Craddock Burks, G. Fleming, P. Genelle, Robert K. Godfrey, Gary R. Knight. States and Counties: Florida: Florida: Citrus, Franklin, Gadsden, Jackson, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty, St. Johns, Wakulla.
  3. [[1]]Missouri Botanical Gardens. Accessed: March 7, 2016
  4. Kay Kirkman, Jones Ecological Research Center, unpublished data, 2015.
  5. Petranka, J. W. and J. K. McPherson (1979). "The Role of Rhus Copallina in the Dynamics of the Forest-Prairie Ecotone in North-Central Oklahoma." Ecology 60(5): 956-965.
  6. Bolin, J. F. 2009. Heat shock germination responses of three eastern North American temperate species. Castanea, v. 74, no. 2, p. 160-167.
  7. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named fs
  8. Bolin, J. F. 2009. Heat shock germination responses of three eastern North American temperate species. Castanea, v. 74, no. 2, p. 160-167.
  9. Deyrup, M.A. 2015. Database of observations of Hymenoptera visitations to flowering plants on Archbold Biological Station, Florida, USA.
  10. [[2]]Accessed: March 10, 2016
  11. Graber, J. W. and P. M. Powers (1981). "Dwarf Sumac as Winter Bird Food." The American Midland Naturalist 105(2): 410-412.
  12. [[3]]University of Florida Extension Accessed: March 10, 2016