Summer’s Sour Secret: Sumac

I often stop along the lane into Menokin to take pictures when a flash of color catches my eye. Such was the case earlier this week when a cluster of red berries I’d been noticing were finally too beautiful to pass by.

Now, here are the confessional and teaching moments of the story wrapped neatly in a bow.

Confession: I wasn’t sure what they were. I suspected sumac but fell into the immediate trap of thinking sumac=poison. But what kind of poison exactly. Rash? “Eat me and die” poison? Or was it sumac at all? Was it the insidious invasive, tree of heaven?

Teaching Moment: Obviously it was not safe for me to be out of doors with my sketchy knowledge of what was or wasn’t sumac. And I did touch one berry so it was crucial to figure this out straight away before symptoms started appearing. So I fired up Google and went to work.

What I learned was this:

  • It was sumac. Staghorn Sumac to be precise.
  • I wasn’t going to die.
  • I wasn’t even going to itch.
  • As a matter of fact, people all over the world use this very same berry as a spice, a medicine and to make lemonade.

The Farmers Almanac did the best job explaining the whole wonderful story so follow this link if you’d like to learn more.

Now, if I could just figure out what kind of bug this is that I saw crawling along the stem…

This little guy was so tiny, about the size of one of the grass seeds on the plant.

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