Plant of the Week: Flameleaf Sumac

Flameleaf sumacAs its name suggests, the flameleaf sumac (Rhus copallinum) turns a brilliant red in autumn. Photo by Friends of the High Line

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.

Widely considered the most ornamental of the native sumacs, Rhus copallinum – the flameleaf sumac – is prized for its foliage, which turns from a deep green to a stunning burgundy in the fall. Sharing many characteristics with close relative staghorn sumac, it is easily distinguishable from other species by the winged stalk of its leaflets.

Like many sumacs, Rhus copallinum is prone to colonizing, providing ample cover for birds and other wildlife. This native species provides nectar and nesting material for native bees, a persistent winter food source for birds, and a myriad of uses for humans. The usefulness of Rhus copallinum and other native sumacs cannot be understated. Suitable for naturalistic park and highway plantings, this sumac is not ideal for small garden use.

In the Philip A. and Lisa Maria Falcone Flyover, between West 25th and 27th Streets

Download our October Bloom Guide.

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