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Michaux's Sumac in NCMichaux's Sumac in North Carolina


Rhus michauxii

STATUS: Endangered

DESCRIPTION: Michaux's sumac is a rhizomatous, densely hairy shrub, with erect stems from 1 to 3 feet 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.

RANGE AND POPULATION LEVEL: Michaux's sumac is historically thought to be endemic to the coastal plain and piedmont of the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida.. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the species as endangered on September 28, 1989, due to its rarity and vulnerability to threats. Only 36 extant populations are known, with 31 in North Carolina, three in Virginia, and two populations in Georgia. Currently, the plant is documented in the following North Carolina counties: Richmond, Hoke, Moore, Scotland, Franklin, Davie, Robeson, and Wake.

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. At least twelve of the plant's 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.

REASONS FOR CURRENT STATUS: 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 North Carolina Natural Heritage Program wrote: . ". . . because of the clonal nature of this species and the scarcity of populations containing both male and female plants, the remaining populations may actually consist of only about two dozen genetic individuals". The plant is also threatened by fire suppression and habitat destruction due to residential and industrial development. Two of the plant's historic populations were destroyed by development, one by the construction of a water tower, and one by the conversion of the site to pine plantation.

Species Distribution from known occurrences. Species may occur in similar habitats in other counties.Green counties indicate observed within 20 years. Yellow counties indicate an obscure data reference to the species in the county. Red counties indicate observed more than 20 years ago.

Distribution of Michaux's Sumac in NC

Species Location Map based on information provided by the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program.
For additional information regarding this Web page, contact Dale Suiter, in Raleigh, NC, at dale_suiter@fws.gov

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