Herb: Lemonade Berry

Latin name: Rhus integrifolia

Family: Anacardiaceae (Cashew Family, Sumac Family)

Edible parts of Lemonade Berry:

Fruit - raw or cooked. The fruit is covered with a pleasant acid-tasting exudation that can be sucked. The fruit is small, up to 10mm in diameter, with very little flesh, but it is produced in fairly large panicles and so is easily harvested. When soaked for 10 - 30 minutes in hot or cold water it makes a very refreshing lemonade-like drink (without any fizz of course). The mixture should not be boiled since this will release tannic acids and make the drink astringent. The leaves have been chewed to assuage thirst. The roasted fruit is a coffee substitute.

Description of the plant:


2 m
(6 1/2 foot)


Habitat of the herb:

Ocean bluffs, canyons and dry places below 800 metres, in sandy sterile soil. Often forming close, impenetrable thickets.

Other uses of Lemonade Berry:

The leaves are rich in tannin. They can be collected as they fall in the autumn and used as a brown dye or as a mordant. An oil is extracted from the seeds. It attains a tallow-like consistency on standing and is used to make candles. These burn brilliantly, though they emit a pungent smoke. Wood - hard, heavy. It is valued and largely used as a fuel.

Propagation of the herb:

Seed - best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe. Pre-soak the seed for 24 hours in hot water (starting at a temperature of 80 - 90c and allowing it to cool) prior to sowing in order to leach out any germination inhibitors. This soak water can be drunk and has a delicious lemon-flavour. The stored seed also needs hot water treatment and can be sown in early spring in a cold frame. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle. It might be wise to grow the plants on in pots for a few years before planting out - see notes in "Cultivation Details". Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 10cm with a heel, July/August in a frame. Root cuttings 4cm long taken in December and potted up vertically in a greenhouse. Good percentage. Suckers in late autumn to winter.

Cultivation of Lemonade Berry:

Ocean bluffs, canyons and dry places below 800 metres, in sandy sterile soil. Often forming close, impenetrable thickets.

Medicinal use of the herb:

None known

Known hazards of Rhus integrifolia:

There are some suggestions that the sap of this species can cause a skin rash in susceptible people, but this has not been substantiated. See also notes in 'Cultivation Details'.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.