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Sumac Brightens Roadsides with Red Leaves in the Fall

Winged Sumac
Matthew C. Perry/USGS

  Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. The roadsides I travel on are slowly changing their hue from full summer to fall. The showy heads of sumac are now catching my eye. This plant grows nearly world wide with a half dozen species right here in South Carolina. Sumac has a stoloniferous habit, it spreads from horizontal stems at the soil line, a habit that makes it valuable for soil stabilization and provides shelter and cover for wildlife. Right now large clumps of it, six or seven feet tall, are helping to strengthen the steep slopes of the Congaree River causeways. The glossy, compound leaves are still a dark green right now but as fall comes will turn a deep, attractive red. The species most prevalent in the middle of the state is Rhus copallinum which has extra tissue, wings, attached to the mid-rib or rachis of the large compound leaves.

Amanda McNulty is a Clemson University Extension Horticulture agent and the host of South Carolina ETV’s Making It Grow! gardening program. She studied horticulture at Clemson University as a non-traditional student. “I’m so fortunate that my early attempts at getting a degree got side tracked as I’m a lot better at getting dirty in the garden than practicing diplomacy!” McNulty also studied at South Carolina State University and earned a graduate degree in teaching there.