Friday, May 18, 2007

Sumac in Spring

Staghorn Sumac
(Rhus typhina, Rhus hirta)

Every morning, Cassie and I stop to look at the leaves of this unruly member of the cashew family which has rooted itself in the hedgerow not far from the little blue house in the village.

In the early morning sunlight (when there is sunlight), the sumacs are forests of long elegantly waving silvery fronds, and the leaves are like ferns - plumed and gracefully arching with fuzzy stems like antlers in velvet. This morning the sumac in the hedgerow beckoned like an old and very dear friend.

Sumac is an exuberant native resident which grows here in abundance, and it is one of the most cheerful and resilient creatures I can think of offhand. It roots itelf in our gardens, parks, hedgerows and all sorts of waste places with insouciance, and it is colourful, cheerful and of unrepentedly independent habits, a wild entity which is utterly resistant to rampaging insects, dusty drought, city pollution, deep cold and foraging wildlife.

There is a lovely symmetry and architecture to the various sumacs which is anything but subtle, opting instead for audacious, brazen and occasionally downright insolent. The leaves are wonderful to look at in any season at all, and the brilliant red crimson fruit in autumn is the stuff of a photographer's dreams.


Anonymous said...

I've always enjoyed the sight of sumacs growing amongst other plant life...and of course their catipillar-like red flowers. I once heard that they are the first plant to grow back after a fire...wonder if that's true.


Anonymous said...

Wow, I never thought of sumacs as cheerful. My parents always warned us that the berries are poisonous. Your essay has convinced me to go out on the railroad tracks and seek it out.

My Iranian friends sprinkle dried SOMAK on their rice dishes. It is pleasingly red and sour. They told me that it is a distant cousin of North American sumac.

MAHIMA said...

the photos and words on your blog are beautiful!!
i came here from imelda's blog and am so glad i did! :)

MAHIMA said...

p.s. i love your blog header!!

kate said...

Your post brought back memories of walking through forests and countryside near Ottawa, where I lived till 2001. How I miss my time there. Sumacs are beautiful and your writing gives life to them.

Rowan said...

I love the autumn colours of the sumac - it doesn't grow wild in UK of course but is grown in a lot of gardens. I love the columbine photos too, they are one of my favourite flowers and the garden is full of them at the moment. Your wild columbine is quite a rare plant over here! I've had it in the past but lost it. Seeing those pictures has made me decide to acquire some more plants if I can find a nursery that stocks them.

Maureen said...

those accordion pleats -- perfectly captured by you and your camera, Cate. Sumac is also one of my favorites in any season, but especially in the fall. that scarlet and orange color is like flames in fall. Thanks for sharing another aspect of the sumac personality. For anyone else interested, Cate's posts are part of the #12 Festival of Trees ... lots of other interesting stuff there.