Cutleaf Staghorn SumacRhus typhina ‘Dissecta’
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Rhus typhina ‘Dissecta’
Outdoor Growing zone
Full Sun, Partial Sun
The Cutleaf Staghorn Sumac is a variety of a native shrub with large leaves that are deeply cut and lobes, resembling a decorative fern. It makes a beautiful ground cover shrub or multi-stem specimen tree, with rich green leaves that turn brilliant shades of gold, orange and red in fall – a fabulous display. It is more compact and less invasive than the wild sumac, growing no more than 15 feet tall, and often smaller. Grow it to fill areas of poor soil, protect slopes from erosion, and edge woodlands. Use it at the back of large shrub beds or to fill blank corners.
The Cutleaf Staghorn Sumac has the best fall colors in full sun, but it also grows well in partial shade. It is tough, drought-resistant once established, and generally free of pests or diseases. It grows readily in almost all soils, even poor ones and urban gardens, as long as the ground is not wet. It is easy to prune and trim in fall or spring, to make it more tree-like, or keep it lower and bushy.
The Staghorn Sumac is perhaps the most popular native shrub in gardens, and with its attractive leaves, fall color and red fruits it’s no wonder. It does tend to grow large, and in some situations its desire to give you new plants from the roots can be a problem, especially in smaller gardens. If you love the look, but don’t have so much space, then grow the Cutleaf Staghorn Sumac. Even if you do have space, grow it anyway, because it is even more attractive than its parent, as well as being smaller and a little less inclined to sucker. Since it is a female clone it is much more reliable in producing those handsome red fruit clusters, and the lovely leaves look even more ferny because they are cut into smaller segments. The fall color is just as spectacular, and it is especially useful for trimming up into a small tree of outstanding beauty. Oh, of course it is just as easy to grow, even in very cold areas.
The Cutleaf Staghorn Sumac is a native deciduous shrub that can be grown branching from the ground or pruned up into a small multi-stem tree. It grows 10 to 15 feet tall at most, depending on climate and soil conditions. It spread into a wide, dome-topped plant up to 20 feet across, especially if grown as a tree. The branches rise up at broad, rounded angles, and that look, combined with the reddish fuzz on young stems (like the velvet on a deer’s antlers) is why it is called ‘staghorn’. The large leaves are up to 2 feet long, but divided into many smaller leaflets, 5 or 6 inches long, which hang from the sides of a central stem. There can be as many as 27 leaflets, and each is divided into deep, narrow lobes, making it look exactly like a decorative fern. The leaves are slightly glossy and rich green, turning amazing shades of yellow, gold, orange and bright red in the fall – one of the best fall-color shrubs available.
Staghorn sumac usually has separate male and female trees, and only female trees carry the 8-inch tall pyramids of fuzzy seeds that develop by fall from small greenish-yellow flowers that appear at the ends of the stems in June or July. The Cutleaf Staghorn Sumac is a female clone, so it is reliable in producing these seed heads. They turn bright red in fall and then darker red, lasting on the bare tree through much of the winter. They are a very attractive winter feature.
With its beautiful foliage the Cutleaf Staghorn Sumac is a great background plant in shrub beds, or a beautiful way to fill an area of poor soil, or edge a wood lot. It is excellent for slopes and banks, holding the soil as well as making an attractive cover. It can be pruned up, removing lower branches, quickly becoming an ancient-looking angular specimen tree, or kept lower and bushy simply by removing taller stems in fall or early spring.
You can grow the Cutleaf Staghorn Sumac almost everywhere, from zone 3 into zone 8. It stays a little smaller in colder zones, where it is especially useful, given the lower choice of plants available.
Plant the Cutleaf Staghorn Sumac in full sun for the best color in fall, but this adaptable plant will take some shade too, making it all the more useful. It will grow even in poor soils and urban soils, and just about anywhere that isn’t wet. The fastest and strongest growth is in moist, well-drained soils. Established plants have good drought resistance.
You won’t see any serious pests or diseases on the Cutleaf Staghorn Sumac, and it’s very easy to grow. You can control the size – up or down – by pruning in fall or early spring, and if it should become overgrown, just cut it to the ground – new stems will soon sprout up to replace it.
The staghorn sumac, Rhus typhina, is one of our most attractive native plants. It grows in Canada from Quebec westward into Ontario, and then further over into Minnesota. It also grows as far south as Indiana, Iowa and Georgia. Wild plants are usually found along woodland edges or by streams, but it has also found its way into areas along our roads and railways. Some related plants, such as poison ivy, poison sumac and the varnish tree, are poisonous or cause rashes. The staghorn sumac is not only safe, it is edible. Native Americans made ‘lemonade’ by soaking the seed heads in water, and they smoked the leaves and seeds with tobacco. You can also peel the young shoots and eat them raw.
The variety ‘Dissecta’ is a very old selection, apparently found in New Hampshire in 1898. The variety ‘Laciniata’ is similar and often confused with it. For those who care, ‘Laciniata’ has small leaves mixed into the seed heads, which are not seen in ‘Dissecta’.
This more compact and more attractive version of the staghorn sumac won the Award of Garden Merit in 1993 from the Royal Horticultural Society of England – a stamp of approval from a world-class organization. If you love sumac but don’t have room for the wild type, this is the plant for you. Order now – it always goes out of stock very quickly.