Water-saving Native Plant of the Week by Bob Dailey: Smooth Sumac (Rhus glabra) - The colony-forming smooth sumac is a 10-20 ft. shrub with short, crooked, leaning trunks and picturesque branches. The pinnately compound leaves are alternate, with 13-30 sharp-toothed leaflets on each side of the midrib. Deciduous leaves become extremely colorful in early fall. On female plants, yellow-green flowers are followed by bright-red, hairy berries in erect, pyramidal clusters which persist throughout winter. The only shrub or tree species native to all 48 contiguous states. The plant does well in sun, part shade or shade. It has low water requirements, prefers soils that are on the dry side. Most dry soils (sandy, loam, clay-loam, or even caliche). This is the dominant sumac of backland prairies. A dwarf variety is becoming popular in cultivation. In a planned landscape, the species is most effective when drifts or colonies, typical of natural settings, are allowed to establish. Colonies can be rejuvenated every few years by cutting them to the ground in mid-winter. Sumacs will grow in dry waste areas, such as impossible slopes where even junipers struggle. They are fast-growing, generally pest and disease-free, and drought-tolerant. Colonies are often single-sexed, formed from a single, suckering parent. Only female plants produce flowers and berries. The seeds remain firmly attached for a long time without noticeable deterioration and are often used in large decorative arrangements and are consumed by birds of many kinds and small mammals, mainly in winter. Deer browse the twigs and fruit throughout the year. Raw young sprouts were eaten by Native Americans as a salad. The sour fruit, mostly seed, can be chewed to quench thirst or prepared as a drink similar to lemonade. Smooth sumac is the larval host for the Hairstreak butterfly.