By: Dina Awad

This plant is from the Anacardiaceae (Mango) family, and from the Rhus genus. It is tart and sour. Several spices of the genus Rhus grow around the Mediterranean sea.

Sumac is of unclear origin, but possibly derived from an Aramaic adjective "red". In Middle Eastern countries, the fruit is used in cooking with different dishes.

There are 16 different kinds of sumac, here are some of them:

1. Red Sumac

Smooth or Red sumac around the great lakes area grow in clumps of wide spreading shrubby plants. The fruit is covered by a reddish haze of fine hairs. The red berries contain hard seeds. The main attraction are the covering hairs. They are loaded with ascorbic acid, vitamin C. The fruit holds some tannin, the astringent that's in ordinary tea.

Red sumac doesn't get its name from its colorful berry spike, but from the way its leaves change to bright red well ahead of most fall foliage. This berry doesn't only grow as a shrubby bush, in warmer areas, on low foothill, it grows into slender-trunked, attractive tree.

Native women use this berry, instead of lemon, in jams, jellies and pies that need a sharpened, acidic taste. It was also used medicinally by North American native people in the treatment of bacterial diseases such as syphilis, gonorrhea, dysentery, and gangrene.

Studies have been done on Smooth or Red sumac. It was found that the antimicrobial activity of smooth sumac was evaluated against 11 microorganisms in vitro. From ground, died smooth sumac branches extracted in methanol, three antibacterial compounds were isolated: two methylated gallic acid derivatives, and gallic acid. The first two are more active than gallic acid, showing better overall activity against the gram-negative bacteria (E. Coli ) than gram-positive bacterium. It was concluded that the fruit is still considerably inferior to commercial antibiotics.

2. Shunkbush Sumac, or Oakleaf Sumac.

Very drought tolerant, grows only 3-4' all. Will form clumps. Deep green summer color is replaced by bronzy-red foliage in fall. Spikes of red fruit develop in late summer. Prefers a well-drained soil. Wildlife benefit: Shrubby growth habit provides cover for upland game birds and small animals and the fruits are eaten by song birds.

3. Poison sumac.

It is found in some of the wooded swamps of southern Ontario and southern Zebec. It is a tall shrub or small tree with 6-12 leaflets arranged in pairs, and an additional single leaflet at the end of the midrib. The small yellowish green flowers, mature into a whitish green fruits that hang in loose clusters 10-30 cm in length. the male and female of Poison sumac are on separate plants. Although nonpoisonous sumac species have leaves similar to those of poison sumac, the nonpoisonous species have red fruits that form distinctive, rest, cone-shaped terminal head.

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