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Plantidote of the Day 2011-01-26

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sumac

Rhus ovata

Sugar bush

Sugar bush, a type of sumac, grows wild just about everywhere in California and some other parts of the southwest. It's practically indestructible, unfazed by triple digit heat or temperatures way below freezing. Once established, the plants need very little water and virtually no care. Their root systems are great for keeping California's ever-sliding hillsides in place, and they are excellent fire break plants, too, one of the last things to burn during a wildfire. Plus, birds love love love sumacs.

But wait ... there's more! Those pretty pink flowers turn into small, red fruits that are supposed to be sweet enough to flavor drinks, just like those of its cousin, lemonade berry (Rhus integrifolia). I'll let you know how that works out when the fruit appears in a couple of months.

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Readers, please send twig (twig4now@gmail.com) images and stories for the ongoing Plantidote of the Day series. In exchange, you'll win undying fame in the form of a hat tip! Plants growing in your garden, your house, or neighbor's yard, plants from the forest or farmers' market, plants you preserved, plants you prepared (wine; cider; tea; dried beans), plants you harvested (grains; chanterelles), plants you picked (flowers), plants you dried (herbs), plants you covet or hope to grow someday. Herbal remedies, propagation tips, new varieties, etc.. And if you can, include some solid detail about the plant, too -- a story, the genus and species, or where you got the seeds, or the recipe, or your grandmother gave it to you. Or challenge us with a "Name That Plant" mystery entry ... And please feel free to add corrections and additional information in the comments.

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Submitted by libbyliberal on

Only sumac I heard about growing up in CT was "poison sumac." This is elegant and I love its fire-resilience capacity.