Monday, April 21, 2014

Wild Sumac in Spring!

Post contributed by Meredith, Conservation Corps Youth Outdoors Crew Leader:

This week, after a seemingly un-ending winter, the Conservation Corps Youth Outdoors crews have finally noticed some signs of spring in the Saint Paul parks! Cardinals have been singing, grass has been greening, and buds have been emerging.  During our time in the parks this week we noticed a particularly special plant showing signs of spring.  It stumped us at first.  We noticed slender, singular twigs emerging from the snow covered ground.  These twigs were covered in a fine down-like material and the middle was a white, spongy wood.  A few days later we noticed that these branches had something very familiar to us emerging from their tips, a conic clump of small red berries! Do you know what we were seeing?
Have you seen it in our parks?  Wild Sumac is a deciduous small tree or shrub that grows about 25 feet tall and has a broad, open crown. It forms dense patches of male or female plants which have alternately pinnately compound leaves.  Wild Sumac is native to the Eastern United States and the Midwest and is planted ornamentally in all temperate regions of the world.  Check out this USGS map of the native range of Rhus typhina. Rhus typhina berries serve as important food source for many game birds, song birds and mammals and was shown to be a significant food source for moose on Isle Royal, Michigan. Besides its visual beauty and interest sumac is also edible and can be used as a dye.  Check out this recipe for sumac lemonade!
We hope you are enjoying the start of spring as much as we are!