Plant of the Week: Sumac

Photo by Steven Severinghaus.

The High Line's planting design is inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew up between rail tracks after the trains stopped running in the 1980s. Today, the High Line includes more than 300 species of perennials, grasses, shrubs, and trees – each chosen for their hardiness, adaptability, diversity, and seasonal variation in color and texture. Some of the species that originally grew on the High Line's rail bed are reflected in the park landscape today.

This week we share one of our gardeners' current favorites with you.

The Rhus species, or sumacs, are one of the iconic plants of the High Line. This time of year, the view from the sundeck out over the Hudson River is punctuated by their striking silhouettes. Leafless, the branches arch up like candelabra, and the dried fruits in pyramidal bunches are reminiscent of flames.

There are several species of sumac growing on the High Line. Rhus glabra, or smooth sumac, is named for its smooth stems. In contrast, Rhus typhina is known as staghorn sumac because the tips of the young branches are covered in velvety fuzz, like a deer's antlers. R. typhina 'Laciniata' has exquisitely cut leaves. Rhus coppalinum is known as winged sumac for the "wings" along the petioles between leaflets. When the leaves and stems of the smaller shrub Rhus aromatica 'Gro-low' are crushed, the oils released have a sharp, spicy fragrance.

All of these species and varieties are native to the Northeast, where they grow on abandoned farmland, along roadsides, and in clearings and meadows. In the garden, they are true four-season plants, with finely textured, bright green foliage in summer; vivid orange and red fall color; beautiful fruit that persists through the winter; and, of course, their iconic shape against the clear blue, early spring sky.


On the High Line between West 14th and West 16th Street, and West 24th and 27th Street.

Download our March bloom list.

Our horticultural team counts on members and friends like you to help keep the High Line beautiful and thriving. Join our community of supporters who play an essential role in the High Line's most important gardening projects – become a member of the High Line today!

Recent Posts
Plant of the Week: Sea Lavender
view post
Open Encounter: A Conversation with Brendan Fernandes
view post