by Barbara Walvoord. For Lamp Post, October 23, 2014
If you walk along the edges of woods and fields at Lathrop these autumn days, you will see small trees with large red spikes–our native Sumac. These plants are not poisonous (the poisonous kind do not have the red spikes). There are about 35 species ; one that we see at Lathrop is Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhena).
Sumac is an early colonizer of open land, so you will see it at wood edges and in unmowed fields. On the east campus, there’s a beautiful stand of it along the fire lane at the end of Mulberry Lane and another stand on the path between the Huckleberry Lane houses and the wetland. That area used to be open all the way to the wetland, long-time residents tell me. But now, like all dry land in our area, it wants to be a woods. Sumac, creeping out toward the path, is the scout. That area is quite heavily invaded by Multiflora Rose, invasive Honeysuckle, Oriental Bittersweet vines, and Buckthorn, so we are happy to see this native plant that nourishes our insects and wildlife much better than the alien invasives. Sharon and I have been moving along that hedge, hacking away the tangle of invasives, so the stand of sumac is a lovely respite.
Sumac is an important wintertime food for wildlife. Look on the ground or on the snow under the sumacs to find the scattered red “bobs” of sumac, where birds, squirrels, or other animals have strewn them about while feasting. Continue reading Sumac: A Forest Scout, a Bird Food, a Spice, a Dye, a Medicine, a Pipe, a Smoke…