Sumac (Rhus typhina)

Sumac (Rhus typhina)

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Common Name(s): Sumac, Staghorn Sumac

Scientific Name: Rhus spp. (Rhus typhina)

Distribution: Northeastern United States

Tree Size: 30-40 ft (10-12 m) tall, 6-12 in (15-30 cm) trunk diameter

Average Dried Weight: 33 lbs/ft3 (530 kg/m3)

Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .45, .53

Janka Hardness: 680 lbf (3,030 N)

Modulus of Rupture: 10,200 lbf/in2 (70.4 MPa)

Elastic Modulus: 1,190,000 lbf/in2 (8.21 GPa)

Crushing Strength: 5,940 lbf/in2 (41.0 MPa)

Shrinkage: No data available

Color/Appearance: Along with Lignum Vitae, Sumac is one of the few woods that has a consistently yellow to olive-green coloration. Sapwood is a grayish white.

Grain/Texture: Grain tends to be straight to interlocked, with a fine to medium texture. Sumac has a moderate level of natural luster.

Endgrain: Ring-porous or semi-ring-porous; medium to large earlywood pores 3-6 rows wide, small to medium latewood pores, moderately numerous to numerous; commonly in radial multiples or tangential bands, sometimes in clusters; tyloses present; narrow rays not visible without lens, normal spacing; parenchyma vasicentric.

Rot Resistance: Sumac is rated as being non-durable to perishable regarding decay resistance, and is also susceptible to insect attack.

Workability: Sumac is generally easy to work, yet its low density can produce fuzzy surfaces that need to be cleaned up with sanding.

Odor: No characteristic odor.

Allergies/Toxicity: Sumac has been reported to cause skin irritation. Most species that produce strong skin reactions (mostly through contact with leaves), such as Posion Sumac, are in the Toxicodendron genus, rather than the Rhus genus. See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.

Pricing/Availability: Because of its small size, Sumac is not a commercially important species. Small pieces of Sumac are occasionally harvested by hobbyists for specialty wood projects; prices should be moderate.

Sustainability: This wood species is not listed in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Common Uses: Small specialty items, carving, turned objects, and inlay.

Comments: None.

Related Species:

None available.

Related Articles:

Scans/Pictures: A special thanks to Mike Leigher for providing the wood sample of this wood species.

Sumac (Rhus typhina)

Sumac (sanded)

Sumac (sealed)

Sumac (sealed)

Sumac (endgrain)

Sumac (endgrain)

Sumac (endgrain 10x)

Sumac (endgrain 10x)

Sumac (quartersawn)

Sumac (quartersawn)



  1. Ron Tocknell August 21, 2018 at 8:52 am - Reply

    A point to bear in mind with sumac is that the wood deas impart a distinct flavour. It isn’t harmful and not entirely unpleasant but it’s worth taking this into consideration if using it for cullinary purposes

  2. Steven Craig Dowell April 22, 2017 at 3:10 pm - Reply

    I was thinking of making a small saltbox for the kitchen from staghorn sumac. Is it safe to use for this? I also wonder how the salt would affect it in the long run. If it’s safe to use for this, I suppose I put a food safe wax as a finish.

  3. Lewis Lerwick September 26, 2014 at 12:04 pm - Reply

    I have like 4 cords of it and have being wondering what it was for some time

  4. Seth August 24, 2014 at 7:17 pm - Reply

    With its soft pith, Sumac has often been used to make flutes or recorders and the like since it is so easy to hollow out the soft heart in a length of wood. Maybe if it grew in Australia it would be known as good didgeridoo wood!

  5. Ross Gigee May 27, 2014 at 7:52 am - Reply

    I always find Staghorn Sumac as having very low rot resistance. This is not the case as I have found pieces laying on the ground exposed to the elements for 10 years, and only the sapwood has rotted. The heart, when split, shows no spalting, even after that time. It does become brittle with time, but that is the case to a lesser degree with redwood and cedar as well.

  6. Cindy February 9, 2013 at 2:47 pm - Reply

    Is sumac a hardwood or soft wood? I had a large sumac tree come down and I want to know if I can burn the wood in my wood stove.

  7. WiKKiD Widgets November 20, 2011 at 10:08 am - Reply

    I have several stands of these trees on my property. It has a distinctive golden / greenish / Brown grain. I have found the pith of even the thickest part of the tree is still soft as foam. When cutting / working on the wood it has an odor quite similar to Olive wood.

  8. Ken Weinert October 21, 2011 at 8:47 am - Reply

    I picked up some pen blanks from eBay. It’s a very light wood, greenish-yellow with darker streaks of brown. It turned very easily with no tearout issues and finished very well.

    Not sure what else you’d like to know about it, feel free to contact me with questions.

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