Herb: Desert Sumach
Latin name: Rhus microphylla
Family: Anacardiaceae (Cashew Family, Sumac Family)
Edible parts of Desert Sumach:Fruit - raw or cooked. A sour flavour. The dried fruits can be ground up, mixed with water and used to make a jam. The fruit is small with very little flesh, but it is easily harvested and when soaked for 10 - 30 minutes in hot or cold water makes a very refreshing lemonade-like drink (without any fizz of course). The fruit is about 5mm in diameter.
Description of the plant:
(6 1/2 foot)
Habitat of the herb:Dry rocky hillsides or gravelly mesas, 600 - 1800 metres.
Other uses of Desert Sumach: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. 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.
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. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. 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 Desert Sumach:Dry rocky hillsides or gravelly mesas, 600 - 1800 metres.
Medicinal use of the herb:None known
Known hazards of Rhus microphylla: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.