Carnegiea gigantea, Giant Saguaro

Southwest Desert Flora

Home to the plants of the Sonoran, Chihuahuan and Mojave Deserts

Cirsium ochrocentrum, Yellowspine Thistle

Rhus trilobata, Skunkbush Sumac

Rhus trilobata, Skunkbush SumacRhus trilobata, Skunkbush SumacRhus trilobata, Skunkbush SumacRhus trilobata, Skunkbush Sumac   Rhus trilobata, Skunkbush SumacRhus trilobata, Skunkbush Sumac    Rhus trilobata, Skunkbush Sumac

Scientific Name: Rhus trilobata
Common Name: Skunkbush Sumac
Also Called: Aromatic Sumac, Basketbush, Fragrant Sumac, Ill-scented Sumac, Lemon Sumac, Polecat Bush, Scented Sumac, Skunk Bush and Squaw Bush; (Spanish: Limita, Aigritas)
Family: Anacardiaceae, Sumac Family
Synonyms: ()
Status: Native
Duration: Perennial
Size: Up to 8 feet or more and 6 to 10 feet wide.
Growth Form: shrub, erect, multiple branches, arching, ascending.
Leaves: Green; deciduous, alternate, leaves with 3 leaflets or trifoliate, the terminal leaflet often has with several lobes, leaves are without pubescence.
Flower Color: Yellow or whitish-yellow; flowers sessile on tips of short stiff branches, blooms before leaves emerge, fruits vary in color from bright red to reddish-orange.
Flowering Season: March to June.
Elevation: 2,500 to 7,500 feet.
Habitat Preferences: Mid to upper deserts, mesas and lower mountain habitats, pinyon-juniper and chaparral, rocky hillsides, slopes and canyons.
Recorded Range: Rhus trilobata is native to the western half of the United States and Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canada. Also native to northern Mexico.

North America & US County Distribution Map for Rhus trilobata.

U.S. Weed Information: No data available
Invasive/Noxious Weed Information: No data available
Wetland Indicator: No data available.
Threatened/Endangered Information: No data available

Genus Information: 20 species in Rhus in the United States, Canada and Mexico, 7 in Arizona. 6 varieties in Rhus trilobata mostly in southwestern states, all 6 varieties recorded in Arizona.

Comments: Skunkbush is so named because it gives off an odor when the leaves or stems are bruised or intentionally crushed. This odor is ill-scented to some while fragrant to others. Its scientific epithet "trilobata" is a direct reference to its trifoliate leaves. Skunkbush Sumac is a widespread variable species with 6 varieties.

Some authorities now consider this species a variety of Rhus aromatica; Rhus aromatica var. trilobata.

According to Arizona Flora Native Americans ate the berries and used the stems make baskets, while other parts of the plant were used as a mordant to help bind dyes. Skunkbush has been used as a cold remedy, burn dressing and miscellaneous disease remedies. See other ethno-botanical uses at Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn.

Date Profile Completed: 11/26/2014, 07/19/2015
U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service on-line database – ITIS search
Arizona Flora, Kearney, Thomas H., Peebles, Robert H., 1960, University of California Press, Berkley and Los Angeles, California.
Native Plant Information Network, NPIN (2013). Published on the Internet [accessed: 11/2762014]. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas, Austin, TX.
2002, The Jepson Desert Manual; vascular plants of southeastern California, Baldwin, Bruce G.,, University of California Press, Berkley and Los Angeles, California.
1993, The Jepson Manual, Citation: ttp:// (accessed 11/26/2014)
2007, CANOTIA: Vascular Plants of Arizona: Anacardiaceae, Volume 3, issue 1, John L. Anderson, Arizona State University Vascular Plant Herbarium.