Raleigh Ecological Services Field Office
Conserving the Nature of America

Michaux’s Sumac (Rhus michauxii)

Michaux’s Sumac. Credit: Susan Miller/USFWS.

Michaux’s Sumac. Credit: Susan Miller/USFWS.

Family: Cashew (Anacardiaceae)

Federal Status: Endangered, listed September 28, 1989

Best Search Time: May through October

Description: Michaux's sumac is a rhizomatous, densely hairy shrub, with erect stems from 1 - 3 feet (ft) (30.5 – 91 centimeters, cm) in height. The compound leaves contain evenly serrated, oblong to lanceolate, acuminate leaflets. Most plants are unisexual; however, more recent observations have revealed plants with both male and female flowers on one plant. The flowers are small, borne in a terminal, erect, dense cluster, and colored greenish yellow to white. Flowering usually occurs from June to July; while the fruit, a red drupe, is produced through the months of August to October.

Habitat: Michaux's sumac grows in sandy or rocky open woods in association with basic soils. Apparently, this plant survives best in areas where some form of disturbance has provided an open area. Several populations in North Carolina are on highway rights-of way, roadsides, or on the edges of artificially maintained clearings. Two other populations are in areas with periodic fires, and two populations exist on sites undergoing natural succession. One population is situated in a natural opening on the rim of a Carolina bay.

map of Michaux's Sumac distribution in North Carolina

Map of Michaux's Sumac distribution in North Carolina.

Distribution: Michaux's sumac is endemic to the coastal plain and piedmont of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. The largest population known is located at Fort Pickett in Virginia, but the most populations are located in the North Carolina piedmont and sandhills. Currently, the plant is extant in the following North Carolina counties: Cumberland, Davie, Durham, Franklin, Hoke, Moore, Nash, Richmond, Robeson, Scotland and Wake. It is considered historic in the following counties: Johnston, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, Orange, Union and Wilson.

Threats: Perhaps the most crucial factor endangering this species is its low reproductive capacity. A low percentage of the plant's remaining populations have both male and female plants. The plant is also threatened by fire suppression and habitat destruction due to residential and industrial development. Michaux’s sumac populations have been destroyed by residential and commercial development, conversion of a site to a pine plantation, the construction of a water tower, highways and herbicides used for power line maintenance.

References:

Buchanan, M.F. and J.T. Finnegan. 2010. Natural Heritage Program List of the Rare Plant Species of North Carolina. NC Natural Heritage Program, Raleigh, NC.

USFWS (N. Murdock and J. Moore.). 1993. Michaux’s Sumac Recovery Plan. Atlanta, Georgia: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 30 pp.

Bibliography:

  • Amoroso, J. 1998a. Michaux’s sumac restored at Umstead State Park. The Steward 12(5):7.
  • Amoroso, J. 1998b. Michaux’s sumac restored at Umstead State Park. The Umstead Coalition Newsletter. Fall 1998, p. 5.
  • Barden, L.S. and J.F. Matthews. 2004. Andre Michaux’s sumac – Rhus michauxii Sargent: Why did Sargent rename it and where did Michaux find it? Castanea 69(2):109-115.
  • Boyer, M. 1996. Final report on Rhus michauxii Monitoring and Management 1992-1996. Unpublished report to NC Plant Conservation Program and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 26 pp. + maps.
  • Braham, R.R. 1999. Enhancing populations of Michaux’s sumac in North Carolina. First annual report. Unpublished report. 11 pp. + appendices.
  • Braham, R. and D. Suiter. 2000. Status and management of encapsulated Michaux’s sumac populations in North Carolina. Unpublished report. 15 pp.
  • Braham, R., C. Murray and M. Boyer. 2006. Mitigating impacts to Michaux’s sumac (Rhus michauxii Sarg): a case study of transplanting an endangered shrub. Castanea 71(4):265-271.
  • Buchanan, M.F. and J.T. Finnegan. 2008. Natural Heritage Program List of the Rare Plant Species of North Carolina. NC Natural Heritage Program, Raleigh, NC.
  • Burke, J.M. and J.L. Hamrick. 2002. Genetic variation and evidence of hybridization in the genus Rhus (Anacardiaceae). The Journal of Heredity 93(1):37-41.
  • Carolina Country. 2004. Vegetation Management Program – Responsible and Effective. Carolina Country. 36(6):22.
  • Coile, N.C. 2000. Notes on Florida’s endangered and threatened plants. Bureau of Entomology, Nematology, and Plant Pathology – Botany Section, No. 38, 4th ed. Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Gainsville, FL.
  • Coile, N.C. and M.A. Garland. 2003. Notes on Florida’s endangered and threatened plants. Bureau of Entomology, Nematology, and Plant Pathology – Botany Contribution, No. 38, 4th ed. Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Gainsville, FL.
  • Cooper, J.E.; Robinson, S.S.; Funderburg, J.B. 1977. Endangered and threatened plants and animals of North Carolina. Raleigh, NC.: North Carolina State Museum Natural History. 444 pp.
  • Cuda, J.P., J.C. Medal, M.D. Virorino and D.H. Habeck. 2005. Supplementary host specificity testing of the sawfly Heteroperryia hubrichi, a candidate for classical biological control of Brazilian peppertree, Schinus terebinthifolius, in the USA. BioControl 50:195-201.
  • Deese, J., O. Hutchins, K. Kerecman, J. Mason, J. Maples, C. Olekson, S. Savin, T. Snow, K. Sweaney and L. Bardin. 2001. The reintroduction of Rhus michauxii into Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. Conservation Biology Laboratory, University of North Carolina – Charlotte. Unpublished report.
  • Emrick, V. 2009. Preliminary Report: Reproductive Status of Michaux’s sumac (Rhus michauxii Sarg.) on Fort Bragg and Camp Mackall, NC. Unpublished report to Fort Bragg. Peaks to Prairies Ecological Services.
  • Emrick, V. and A. Hill. 1997. Density of Rhus michauxii stems at Fort Pickett Military Reservation, Virginia. Springfield, VA: US Army Corps of Engineers, Construction Engineering Research Laboratories. p. 16.
  • Emrick, V. and A. Hill. 1998. Plant community composition of Rhus michauxii colonies at Fort Pickett military Reservation, Virginia. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Resarch Lab., USACERL Technical Report. Champaign, IL. 98/49. 27 pp.
  • Emrick, V. and J. Jones. 2008. Influence of Competition on the Density of the Federally Endangered Michaux’s Sumac (Rhus michauxii) at Fort Pickett, Virginia. Southeastern Naturalist 7(1):61-68.
  • Emrick, V.R., R.J. Proffitt, T. O. Southall, and L.M. Boyette. 1995. The community ecology of Michaux’s sumac (Rhus michauxii Sargent), a globally endangered species occurring at Fort Pickett, Virginia. Abstract in ASB Bulletin 42(2):123.
  • Hardin, J.W. and L.L. Phillips. 1985a. Atlas of foliar surface features in woody plants, VII. Rhus subg. Rhus (Anacardiaceae) of North America. Bull. Torrey Bot. Club 112(1):1-10.
  • Hardin, J.W. and L.L. Phillips. 1985b. Hybridization in Eastern North American Rhus (Anacardiaceae). ASB Bulletin 32(3):99-106.
  • Henderson, B. 2001. Native plant life from 1700s returned to Mecklenburg. Charlotte Observer November 29, 2001.
  • Herring, B. 2006. A status survey for Michaux’s sumac (Rhus michauxii) in Alachua County, Florida. Unpublished report submitted to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Administration (FDACS)/Division of Forestry. Florida Natural Areas Inventory, Tallahassee, FL.
  • Kartesz, J.T. 1999. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the U.S., Canada, and Greenland. In: Kartesz, J.T. and Meacham, C.A., editors. Synthesis of the North American Flora, Version 1.0. North Carolina Botanical Garden. Chapel Hill, NC.
  • Legrand. H., Jr. 1992. Heritage staff member finds more rare species in the Sandhills Game Land. Natural Diversity, Summer 1992 pp. 4-5.
  • Murray, C.A., R. Braham and S. Burleson. Undated. Development and implementation of mitigation plans to off-set impacts to Michaux’s sumac from roadway construction in North Carolina. Unpublished report. NC Department of Transportation and NC State University.
  • The Nature Conservancy. 1993. Rare and endangered plant survey and natural area inventory of Fort Bragg and Camp Mackall military reservations, North Carolina. Sandhills Field Office: Final report by The Nature Conservancy.
  • North Carolina Department of Agriculture. 1997. Endangered native sumac to be reintroduced. NCDA Press Release, February 21, 1997. Raleigh, NC.
  • North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation. 1993. CP&L, Heritage Program enter management agreement. The Steward 7(4)4-5.
  • Patrick, T.S., J.R. Allison and G.A. Krakow. 1995. Protected Plants of Georgia, An informational manual on plants designated by the State of Georgia as endangered, threatened, rare or unusual. Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division, Georgia Natural Heritage Program, Social Circle, GA.
  • Pokorski, B. and V. Emrick. 2007. Current status of the federally endangered Michaux’s sumac (Rhus michauxii). Conservation Management Institute – Military Lands Division College of Natural Resources, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. CMI-MLD-2007-R-58.
  • Radford, A.E., H.E. Ahles and C.R. Bell. 1968. Manual of the Vascular Flora of the Carolinas. University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, N.C.
  • Rees, M.D. 1989. Final Listing Rules approved for 13 Species. Endangered Species Technical Bulletin. 14, 9-10: 8-9.
  • Sargent, C.S. 1895. New or little-known plants – Rhus michauxii. Garden and Forest 8(398):404-405.
  • Savage, S., M. Bucher, C. Mayes, J. Moore and R. Sutter. 1991. Preliminary results of a demographic and genetic analysis of Rhus michauxii. Unpublished report. 8 pp.
  • Schafale, M. and A. Weakley. 1990. Classification of natural Communities of North Carolina. NC Natural Heritage Program, Raleigh, NC. 325 pp.
  • Sherman-Broyles, S.L., J.P. Gibson, J.L. Hamrick, M.A. Bucher and M.J. Gibson. 1992. Comparisons of allozyme diversity among rare and widespread Rhus species. Systematic Botany, Vol. 17(4):551-559.
  • Sherfy, Mark H. 1997. Working together for sumac recovery. Endangered Species Bulletin 22(1):20-21.
  • Schiffer, J.E. 1999. The sumac rescue mission. Raleigh News and Observer January 17, 1999.
  • Sorrie, B.A., B. VanEerden and M. J. Russo. 1997. Noteworthy Plants from Fort Bragg and Camp Mackall, North Carolina. Castanea 62(4): 239-259.
  • Thrush, L.E. 2002. Planting Site Determination Techniques for Rhus michauxii. M.S. Thesis. Department of Forestry, NC State University, Raleigh, NC. 52 pp.
  • Townsend, J.F. 2009. Natural Heritage Resources of Virginia: Rare Plants. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. Richmond, VA. 66 pp.
  • USFWS. 1989. Proposed endangered status for Rhus michauxii (Michaux's sumac). Federal Register. 54(4):441-445. USFWS. 1993. Regional news. Endangered Species Technical Bulletin. 18: 3.
  • USFWS. 1989. Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants: Determination of endangered status for Rhus michauxii (Michaux’s sumac) 54(187):39853-39857.
  • USFWS (N. Murdock and J.Moore.). 1993. Michaux’s Sumac Recovery Plan. Atlanta, Georgia: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 30 pp.
  • Uttall, L.J. 1984. The type localities of the Flora boreali-americana of Andre Michaux. Rhodora 86:1-65.
  • Van Alstine, N.E. and A. Belden, Jr. 2004. An inventory for Rhus michauxii Sarg. (Michaux’s sumac) in the southern Piedmont of Virginia. Natural Heritage Technical Report 05-02. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond, VA.
  • Van Alstine, N.E. and A. Belden, Jr. 1995. Distribution of Rhus michauxii of Fort Pickett, Virginia. Natural Heritage Technical Report 95-15. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond, VA.
  • Warren, L.E. 1910. Rhus michauxii – A non-poisonous plant. The American Journal of Pharmacy.
  • Weakley, A. 2011. Flora of the Southern and Mid-Atlantic States. Working Draft May 2011. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
  • Willis, M.S. 2008. Status and Soil Requirements of Rhus michauxii in North Carolina. M.S. Thesis. Department of Forestry, NC State University, Raleigh, NC. 43 pp.
  • Yi, T.S., Miller, A.J. and Wen, J. 2004. The phylogeny and biogeographic diversification of Rhus (Anacradiaceae) in the Northern Hemisphere. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 33(3)861-879.
  • Yi, T.S., Miller, A.J. and Wen, J. 2007. The phylogeny of Rhus (Anacradiaceae) based on sequences of nuclear NIA-i3 intron and chloroplast trnC-D suggests reticulate evolution. Systematic Botany 32: 379-391.

For More Information on Michaux’s Sumac...

Species Contact:

Dale Suiter, Fish and Wildlife Biologist, 919-856-4520 ext. 18

Species profile revised on August 25, 2011.

Last Updated: November 1, 2012