Stag’s horn Sumach In Autumn

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The Rhus typhina shrub, commonly known as the Stag’s horn sumach, in autumn, has a brilliant array of colour. It’s an understated large suckering, bushy shrub for most of the year. But once autumn arrives it’s probably the most colourful shrub you can have in the garden.

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Along each of the branches hang leaves, like rows of colourful laundry neatly pegged on the washing line. While tiny fine hairs line the branches and give a soft downy feel to the shrub. With the autumnal breakdown of chlorophyll, the combination of colours such as yellow, violet, orange and red turn the leaves into a cornucopia of colours. But they don’t last for long once the wind starts blowing a hoolie.

Male and Female Plants

Each shrub is dioecious and is either a male or a female. The female shrub produces yellowish-green cone-shaped panicles in summer which mature into reddish inedible fruits called drupes. These can last well over the winter months and remain on the branches until early spring. Unlike the male shrub, which only produces tiny insignificant flowers that wither away. When you first buy one of these shrubs you’ll never know if you have a male or a female plant until they start to flower in June! That’s unless you buy a large specimen plant already in flower.

How To Prevent Suckering

I’d forgive its suckering habit any day just to have its showy autumn leaves displayed throughout October. Nevertheless, if the suckers become a nuisance, just tear them off at the base of the plant rather than cutting them off with secateurs. It takes longer for the shrub to produce new suckers when they have been torn off, as the dormant buds are removed from the base of the plant. You’ll never stop the shrub from suckering, but at least you’ll be able to keep the invasive suckers in check. Just don’t plant it too close to a lawn or a patio as those suckers will pop up in between paving or on the grass. However, if you place a barrier (affiliate link) around the roots, that will help to prevent them spreading.

It will eventually grow 6 metres high and 5 metres wide and give you a fantastic display of leaf colours in the autumn.


Finally here are some of my photos showing the different foliage colours!

When I photograph autumn foliage I always use a HOYA PRO1 Digital Filter Circular Polarizer (affiliate link). It really reduced the glare of light on these leaves and enhanced their autumn colours.


Stag’s Horn Sumach In Autumn

toothed edges of a rhus leaf / Stag's horn sumach In Autumn
The toothed edges of the leaves are very distinctive.

Stag's horn sumach In Autumn
The Stag’s horn sumach in autumn has foliage colours which are a rich array of colourful combinations.

Stag's horn Sumach In Autumn


Stag's horn Sumach In Autumn
The foliage colours are vivid, stimulating and energetic.

Stag's horn sumach in autumn
It has such showy leaves that will brighten up any corner in the garden but most colourful in a south or westerly position.

Stag's horn sumach in autumn
In Autumn its beauty is in its abundance of multi-coloured leaves.

You can see some more of my fine art leaves from the male shrub over at my print shop.

Rosie Nixon
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Photography Tutor and Gardener

Rosie is a garden photographer, writer and nature lover. She enjoys soaking up nature and is easily distracted from doing the weeding by anything that flutters, flies, buzzes, creeps or crawls! She enjoys sharing the beauty of creation through her photography. Rosie has been featured on TV on BBC2's The Beechgrove Garden and she uses the outdoors as her natural light studio. Her work can be seen at one of Scotland's only photography galleries - Close Gallery, 4b Howe Street, Edinburgh. If you'd like to receive the latest leavesnbloom blog posts by email click here.

Rosie Nixon
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