Saturday, February 13, 2010

Sumac Fruits

There are still plenty of Sumac fruits for anything that cares to eat them. I’ve read that sumac fruit is a food of last resort for many birds. Since there are plenty of both birds and sumac fruit, I guess the birds have not yet reached that desperation point.

These are all Winged Sumac, Rhus copallinum. When these compound leaves are shed in the fall, the leaflets detach from the main stem and are easily blown away. The winged stem usually falls to the base of the plant, so a little bit of searching can help you confirm a winter identification.

The sumac spreads by way of root sprouts and the individual plants don’t live for very long. Each stand is full of dead trunks. This branch is shedding the dead bark along with its colony of lichens. New sprouts emerge annually to replace those that have died.

Exposed wood reveals tunnels left by borers that fed just below the bark. There are several species of beetle larvae that feed in this manner. Some attack living trees and others feed on the dead or dieing. I don’t know which type was feeding here.

The fruit has dried down over the seed. There have been years in which the birds stripped the sumacs clean of fruits. It’s a valuable asset to have unappetizing food that remains untouched until it’s really needed. Sort of like when we get snowed in and start eating those non-favorites that get pushed to the back of the pantry.

This is the same species of sumac that I was cutting in the prairies this winter. I still left plenty of thickets standing to provide this winter food source. I’m hoping at this point that the weather won’t cause a need for this fruit to be used.

1 comment:

  1. Nice blog.

    Those beetle feeding galleries look like the work of bark beetles (a type of weevil, subfamily Scolytinae). I see them frequently in dead sumac branches here in Missouri. I've also reared several longhorned beetles (family Cerambycidae) from dead sumac, but they tend to bore inside the wood and leave only a hole where the adult emerges as evidence of their workings.