Spermatophytes (seed plants): Angiosperms (flowering plants): Eudicots: Core Eudicots: Rosids: Malvids: Sapindales
Dig deeper at SERNEC, a consortium of southeastern herbaria.
On first glance it looks much like Poison-oak (Toxicodendron pubescens) and less so Poison-ivy (T. radicans), with its three-parted leaves. However, the central (terminal) leaflet of Fragrant Sumac tapers gradually to the base, and appears rather diamond-shaped, unlike the more rounded base of the terminal Poison-oak or Poison-ivy leaflet with a short stalk showing. The leaves of Fragrant Sumac also tend to be rather thick, and they are usually not as shiny as the leaves of Poison-oak or Poison-ivy. Read more at Vascular Plants of North Carolina.
The specific epithet is Latin for “aromatic” or “fragrant,” describing the strong and pleasant scent of the crushed leaves. Read more at "Know Your Natives" from the Arkansas Native Plant Society.
INCLUDED WITHIN VASCULAR FLORA OF THE CAROLINAS (Radford, Ahles, & Bell, 1968) 110-01-004:
Rhus aromatica FAMILY Anacardiaceae
SYNONYMOUS WITH Manual of the Southeastern Flora (Small, 1933, 1938)
Fragrant Sumac, Squawbush
To see larger pictures, click or hover over the thumbnails.
JK Marlow jkm090404_172
April Walker County GA
Straggly, upright, rounded shrub, 1'-7' tall, not poisonous, per Wildflowers of Tennessee (Carman, 2005).
Alan S. Weakley asw_911365276792178
May Granville County NC
Foliage has sessile terminal leaflets (vs. Toxicodendron pubescens has a prominent petiolule), per Weakley's Flora (2022).
COMPARE Fragrant Sumac and Poison Oak
JK Marlow jkm180506_1997
May Crawford County GA
Coarsely toothed above mid-leaflet. Lateral leaflets assymmetric & sessile, per Forest Plants of the Southeast and Their Wildlife Uses (Miller & Miller, 2005).
Richard and Teresa Ware rtw_rhus_aromatica_8
Short dense catkin-like clusters open before or during leaf expansion, per Forest Plants of the Southeast and Their Wildlife Uses (Miller & Miller, 2005).
JK Marlow jkm140603_378
June Pickens County SC
SC Botanical Garden
Petiolule of terminal leaflet is the same length as the lateral petiolules, per www.carolinanature.com (Cook).
JK Marlow jkm140603_381
June Pickens County SC
SC Botanical Garden
Leaflets thick, at first pubescent on both surfaces, glabrate in age, per Vascular Flora of the Carolinas (Radford, Ahles, & Bell, 1968).
Richard and Teresa Ware rtw_r_aromatica_aroma
Fruits roundish, very hairy, bright red, and quite conspicuous, per Wildflowers of Tennessee (Carman, 2005).
Manual of the Southeastern Flora (Small, 1933, 1938)
Habitat: Dry to dry-mesic upland forests and woodlands, glade margins, stream banks, bluffs, and pastures, eastwards primarily in rocky, rather dry, woodlands, usually over mafic rocks (such as gabbro or diabase) or calcareous rocks, less commonly in sandy soils, per Weakley's Flora
Native to the Carolinas & Georgia
Uncommon (rare in Carolina Coastal Plain)
CLICK HERE to see a map, notes, and images from Weakley's Flora of the Southeastern US.
Click here to see a map showing all occurrences known to SERNEC, a consortium of southeastern herbaria. (Zoom in to see more detail.)
DOES THE PLANT HAVE "MILKY SAP"?
Has milky sap (latex)
Compound: 3 leaflets
TO LEARN MORE about this plant, look it up in a good book!
- Forest Plants of the Southeast and Their Wildlife Uses (Miller & Miller, 2005) p378
- Gardening with the Native Plants of Tennessee (Hunter, 2002) p257
- Landscaping with Native Trees (Sternberg & Wilson, 1995) p224
- Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants p086
- Native Shrubs and Woody Vines of the Southeast (Foote & Jones, 1989) p086
- Newcomb's Wildflower Guide (Newcomb, 1977) p318
- Guide to the Plants of Granite Outcrops (Murdy & Carter, 2000) p71
- Wildflowers of Tennessee (Carman, 2005) p166
- Woody Plants of the Blue Ridge (Lance) p07
- Woody Plants of the Southeastern US: A Winter Guide (Lance, 2004) p292
If a search such as "Carex leptalea var. leptalea" doesn't deliver the results you want, try "Carex leptalea".
Or, to minimize chances of a misspelling, try just "Carex le".
Less is more: If "pencil flower" doesn't deliver the results you want, try "pencil".