Portraits of Wildflowers

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Archive for June 13th, 2014

Rhus copallinum

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Rhus copallina New Leaves 1989

Here’s Rhus copallinum, known as winged sumac, shining sumac, flameleaf sumac, mountain sumac, and dwarf sumac. The species name is taken from the Nahuatl (Aztec) word copalli, meaning ‘resin,’ so the coiner of the scientific name described this kind of sumac as resinous. I’d read about Rhus copallinum and might have seen some in Arkansas last year, but it was good to finally find this species only an hour east of home.

I’ve long been fascinated by the way the rachis (central axis) of each compound leaf* tends to curve in the species of flameleaf sumac I’m familiar with from Austin, and that curving is apparent in this genus-mate as well. Many of you may be familiar with Rhus copallinum because it grows throughout most of the eastern and central United States, as you can confirm on the state-clickable USDA map for this species.

Like the last few photographs, today’s comes from an April 27th field trip to Bastrop State Park led by botanist Bill Carr.


* In common parlance people might say that this photograph shows a couple of dozen whole or partial leaves, but botanists would disagree and say the photograph shows parts of only three leaves, but each of those leaves is compound, meaning that it is made up of elements called leaflets. For example, in the compound leaf that’s front-most in the photo we can count 13 leaflets, and there might have been some more below the bottom border of the picture. For the leaf that curves along the right edge of the photograph, we can count 11 leaflets.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 13, 2014 at 6:00 AM

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