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Aromatic sumac is widespread and adaptable in hills and woods, occurring in East Texas, east and south to Florida, north to Vermont, Missouri and Minnesota. This thicket-forming, straggly to upright shrub with arching branches has trifoliate leaves resembling a miniature version of poison ivy, which is in the same family. The leathery, usually smooth or occasionally somewhat pubescent leaves are reputed to have a pungently spicy (but not especially pleasant) aroma when bruised. In fall they display brilliant orange, red and yellow color. The fuzzy red fruit is enjoyed by many species of birds, including wild turkey, ruffled grouse and flickers; also by raccoons, opossum and deer. For the most desirable shape and fall color, aromatic sumac should be grown in full sun. However, as it is thicket-forming, it makes an excellent ground cover in shade and is well suited for erosion control. Variety serotina is one of the half dozen or more varieties of this species and occurs in East Texas to the Edwards Plateau. It has been cultivated since 1759. R. aromatica and R. trilobata are so similar appearing that they were once classified under the same name.Rhus trilobata is a shrub in the Anacardiaceae (Cashew) family with the common name Fragrant Sumac and several others. It was formerly classified as Rhus trilobata and some sources still refer to it that way. It is native to western North America. In California it occurs in many parts of the state including the northern Coast Ranges, Sierra foothills and southern coastal mountains. It can be found from deserts to mountain peaks up to about 7,000 feet in elevation. The pale yellow flowers are followed by a red, fleshy drupe that has a sticky coating, similar to Lemonade Berry.
This species closely resembles other members of the genus that have leaves with three "leaflets" ("trifoliate" leaves), including Poison-oak. People with sensitivity to Poison-oak should use caution around Fragrant Sumac. The shape of the leaflets and the habit of the shrub make this species, like some other Rhus, resemble small-leafed oaks (Quercus). The plant is deciduous and exhibits good fall color. Oak and oak-hickory communities: Fragrant sumac is a common woody shrub in a variety of oak and oak-hickory communities . The species occurs in black oak (Q. velutina) forests in Illinois as an understory component with common pricklyash (Zanthoxylum americanum) and gray dogwood (Cornus racemosa) , and is also found in the understory of drier black oak communities in southeastern Michigan . Fragrant sumac is "locally abundant" in the post oak-black hickory forest community  of the Missouri Ozarks, and is also common in oak-hickory (Carya spp.) communities in Illinois  and Tennessee . In the Upper Midwest states and southeastern Ontario, fragrant sumac occurs in dry, calcareous oak savannas dominated by white oak, chinkapin oak (Q. muehlenbergii), and shagbark hickory . In West Virginia, fragrant sumac occurs in the Appalachian oak and oak-hickory-pine (Pinus spp) forest associations . Fragrant sumac occurs in the basic oak-hickory forest type in North Carolina with a variety of hickory species and the primary oaks being white, post, black, and chinkapin . (Source: www.fs.fed.us)