Appearance and General Information
Squawbush, Skunk Brush, Lemonade Berry, Three Leafed Sumac, Chilchin
The leaves are comprised of three lobed, dark green leaflets that range in color from yellow to orange to red in the months of fall. Some people object to the odor of the crushed leaves, which have earned it the nickname “skunkbrush.” Young stems are slender and red in color, becoming progressively grey with age. During the springtime, dense clusters of tiny yellow flowers appear before the new leaves. Soon after, fleshy reddish-orange fruit are produced during the summer months. The berries have a sticky substance on the surface of the reddish skin.
The young shoots and roots of the sumac can be peeled and eaten raw. The fruits form most years in abundance and can be gathered for storage as well as eaten raw during harvesting. The berries contain large amounts of ascorbic acids and make a delicious lemonade-like drink. The ripe berries of the sumac are high in vitamin C and can be ground into cereal or added as additions to other recipes.
Tannic and gallic acids are the active compounds found in Rhus trilobata, particularly in the leaves and fruits of the sumac. The properties of tannic acid include antibacterial, antidermatotic, antigingivitic, antihemorrhoidal, antiseptic, astringent, antiulcer, and antiviral. Historically, the bark has been chewed as a cold remedy. As the active constituents of the sumac have been studied, they have been found useful in the treatment of tuberculosis, diabetes, and cancers. Sumac contains calcium, iodine, and selenium as well as many other beneficial minerals. The bark, when made into a powder, makes a good antiseptic salve, while an infusion of the leaves is used for the treatment of asthma and diarrhea. A poultice of the leaves is used to treat skin rashes. The leaves may also be chewed for sore gums and rubbed on sore lips. An infusion of the blossoms is used as an eye wash for sore eyes and the milky latex from the plant (formed when it is broken or cut) is used as a salve on sores.