Sunday, 19 October 2014

Sumac Appreciation

In this part of the world, the trees have almost finished their role in October's outdoor beauty pageant. The clicking of cameras is tapering off and applause is fading. Leafy gowns are being slowly discarded in a wind swept striptease of twirling and drifting multicoloured patches. Appreciative folk share photos of the extravaganza and declare their favourites.

My vote for best in show is not a tree, but a shrub. The Staghorn Sumac. 

I would name this sumac colour scheme 'Hot Coals'.

Does this remind you of ceremonial feather decorations?

This colour could be 'Show Girl'.

Velvety red fruit candles appear in July.

Flamboyant but undemanding and a provider of summer cover and winter food for birds, the sumac is not just a pretty face.

A drink tasting like lemonade and high in vitamins A and C can be made from the red berries. The dried fruit clusters also make an excellent beekeeper's smoker fuel. In spring, first year shoots (look for a green pith) can be peeled and eaten either raw or cooked. Added to a dried floral arrangement, the velvety red bobs make a festive touch.

So let's have a round of applause for Miss Sumac. Yay-y-y! Hoot! Hoot!


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