In a family which contains such widely different plants as poison ivy and cashew nuts, one finds; the sumac well established as important small trees in the Illinois woods.
Rhus glabra L.
May. Hillsides, open woods.
The sumacs in winter have little of the appearance of proper trees because the leaves fall completely away and leave the stout branches of the shrubby sumac startlingly bare and unbranching. They are club-shaped and stiff without line twigs; the winter buds are embedded above the leaf -ears. Then when spring comes, the crumpled little compound leaves develop rapidly from the tiny buds, expand, stretch, elongate, until they are fifteen to eighteen inches long, compound with many toothed, narrow leaflets, and attached in a great whorl at the top of each woody stem.
It is here, from this crown, that the flower hud- form and in June burst into a large panicle of greenish-yellow flowers. These are tiny and five-parted, and later are replaced by a large tight cluster of green seeds which turn carmine-pink in autumn. They are covered with line hairs containing malic acid; this quality permits the fruits to he used in mak-ing a refreshing drink reminiscent of lemonade. In the past, the tannin in the boiled berries was used to make a medicinal drink to relieve sore throat; tannin extracted from fruits, stems, dried leaves, and roots has been used extensively in the past in tanning and dyeing.