Dwarf Fragrant Sumac

Dwarf fragrant sumac is a low-growing native shrub with yellow flowers in the early spring and has scented bark and foliage that are responsible for its name.

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Photo: Kingsbrae Garden (flickr)

Rhus aromatica "Grow Low" Fragrant Sumac

The foliage of Dwarf fragrant sumac remains green during very hot summers and turns red-orange in autumn. This is a shrub that can be cut right to the ground periodically, to keep it more manageable. Even if this shrub is rubbed by deer antlers, as bucks like the aromatic bark, it will quickly regenerate.

Dwarf sumac grows well on the edge of woodlands and can be used as a ground cover, low hedge, or barrier, and it has red fruit that birds enjoy. Its botanical name is Rhus aromatica, and it grows from Quebec south to Florida and west to the pacific. While it prefers sun, it is tolerant of shade and hardy zones 3 – 9, growing in a wide range of soils. It can also be used as a soil stabilizing shrub on steep sites.

Although it has some toxic and unpleasant relatives, such as poison ivy, dwarf fragrant sumac itself is benign in all respects and less aggressive than most sumacs. It tolerates heat, even heat reflected from city pavements, and also is unfazed by snow plows piling snow on it in winter. It grows 2 – 3 feet high and equally wide and once established is stoic in adverse conditions such as heat and drought. Situate it in a berm or as a bridge planting between groups of taller shrubs and trees.

Moya Andrews

, originally from Queensland, Australia, served as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculties at Indiana University until 2004. In the same year, Moya began hosting Focus on Flowers for WFIU. In addition, Moya does interviews for Profiles, is a member of the Bloomington Hospital Board, and authored Perennials Short and Tall from Indiana University Press.

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