Sumac: The Red
From fall through winter spot Sumac by looking for the brilliant red bobs jutting into the air above the leaves of the plant, and above your head! Considered a bush or small tree, sumac can get pretty tall. It's bobs are formed by dense clusters of fruit, called drupes, and are cone-shaped. The red bobs help distinguish this plant from poison sumac- the latter has white drupes which hang rather than stand upright and the whole plant will give you a nasty rash.
Each individual sumac is actually part of a network of rhizomes and the bark is especially good at growing new shoots where it's been damaged.
(photo thanks to the Lakeside Nature Center)
Known for its use as a Mediterranean spice (sumac means "red" in Syriac), sumac berries are also used to make a tasty "lemonade"! As with any wild food, be sure which plant you are picking before ingesting it. Sumac has some ornamental relatives that are not too tasty. Luckily the one commonly found in Detroit is!
Next time we'll explore:
Yarrow: An Important Medicinal Companion