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When Life Gives You Sumac, Make Lemonade...

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Smooth sumac, Rhus glabra, can be easily spotted in and around the valley by its riotously orange and red leaves. Of all our natives, this is one of the showiest in fall. Best left appreciated in the wild, this plant spreads by underground rhizomes (specialized roots)- and is impractical for most people to try to control in a small yard.

Sometimes this plant is mistaken for poison sumac, Toxicodendron vernix, a plant that grows in the eastern US and has the same itchy properties as poison ivy, Toxicodendron rydbergii, although closely related, smooth sumac doesn't have the same oil (urushiol) and won't make you itch even if you roll in it.

The red fruits of smooth sumac were used by Indians to make a refreshing beverage that was tart and tasted much like lemonade. The plant was also a medicine, used in treating everything from venereal diseases to difficult pregnancies. One of the more common uses of the plant was to chew leaves or other parts of the plant for tooth aches or a sore throat.

Looking north from Saddlerock, Ponderosa pine, Pinus ponderosa, our most common pine tree east of the Cascades. View from the backside of Saddlerock, looking southeast and downriver.