Rhus glabra, commonly called smooth sumac, is a Missouri native, deciduous shrub which occurs on prairies, fields, abandoned farmland, clearings and along roads and railroads throughout the State. A large, open, irregular, spreading shrub which typically grows 8-15' tall and spreads by root suckers to form thickets or large colonies in the wild. Very similar to staghorn sumac (R. typhina), except the young stems of staghorn are densely pubescent whereas those of this species are smooth, hence the common name. Large, compound pinnate, shiny, dark green leaves (each with 9-27 leaflets) grow to 18" long with a fern-like appearance and turn attractive shades of bright orange to red in autumn. Tiny, yellowish-green flowers bloom in terminal panicles (5-10" long) in late spring to early summer, with separate male and female flowers appearing on separate plants (dioecious). Female plants produce showy, erect, pyramidal fruiting clusters (to 8" long). Each cluster contains numerous hairy, berry-like drupes which ripen red in autumn, gradually turning maroon-brown as they persist through most of the winter. Fruit is attractive to wildlife.
The seeds have a period of dormancy. They can be planted outdoors in the fall or winter for spring germination or they can be cold stratified to simulate winter conditions and to break their dormancy at any time of the year.
- Scarify the seeds by nicking or sanding the seed coat.
- Soak the seed in water for several hours.
- Place the seeds in a plastic bag and seal it. Store the bag in a refrigerator for two months.
- The seeds like moist, well-drained soil. Prepare a mixture of half potting soil and half sand, perlite or vermiculite. Put the soil in a pot. Water the mixture so that it is moist but not wet.
- Sow the seeds on the soil and cover them with a thin layer of soil.
- Water the container and leave it to drain.
- Put the pot in a warm, sunny area.
- Water the pot regularly so that the soil is moist but not wet.
- The seedlings can be transplanted when they are a few inches tall.