PLANT: Densely branched shrub, to 2 m tall; old bark dark gray, lenticular; branches gray, stiff and spinescent, puberulent to glabrate. LEAVES: 12-20 mm long, deciduous, odd-pinnately compound, 5-9 foliolate, with a winged rachis; leaflets sessile, elliptic, 6-9 mm long, 2-5 mm wide, entire, hirsute. INFLORESCENCE: small, dense spikes, terminal and axillary, 8-12 mm long; bracts ovate, pubescent, to 2 mm long; flowers appearing early before or with the first leaves. FLOWERS: to 3 mm long; sepals dark pink, glabrous; petals cream, glabrous. FRUIT: ovoid, 5-7 mm in diameter, dark red to orange, glandular hairy, wrinkled in dried specimens. NOTES: Gravelly mesas and rocky hillsides, often on limestone, in Chihuahuan Desert, semi-desert grassland, and oak (encinal) woodland, occasionally along dry washes and in mesquite bosques and riparian woodlands: Cochise, Graham, Greenlee, Pima, and Santa Cruz cos.; 1250-1715 m (3800-5200 ft); Mar-May; w TX and Mex to NM, AZ. In southeastern AZ, Rhus microphylla reaches the northwestern edge of its range. REFERENCES: John L. Anderson, 2006, Vascular Plants of Arizona: Anacardiaceae. CANOTIA 3 (2): 13-22.
Anderson 2007, Benson and Darrow 1981, Harris 1990, Kearney and Peebles 1960, Carter 2012
Common Name: littleleaf sumac Duration: Perennial Nativity: Native Lifeform: Tree General: Densely branched shrub to 2 m tall; dark gray bark when old; branches gray, stiff and spinescent, puberulent to glabrate. Leaves: Alternate, deciduous, odd-pinnately compound, 5-9 foliolate, with winged rachis; leaflets sessile, elliptic, entire, hirsute; 6-9 mm long, 2-5 mm wide. Flowers: In small, dense spikes, terminal and axillary, 8-12 mm long; ovate, pubescent bracts to 2 mm long; flowers appear before or with first leaves; to 3 mm long, 5 dark pink sepals, 5 cream petals, glabrous. Fruits: Ovoid berry 5-7 mm in diameter, dark red to orange and covered with glandular hairs. Ecology: Found on gravelly soils and on rocky slopes, on sandstone, limestone, and granitic parent material from 3,500-6,500 ft (1067-1981 m); flowers March-May. Distribution: s AZ, s NM, TX, s OK; south to c MEX. Notes: A frequent shrub in the Chihuahuan Desert distinguished as a densely-branched shrub with stiff, spinescent stems; pinnate leaves with 5-9 small leaflets (hence, microphylla) and the characteristic red berries of sumacs which are sour/lemon flavored; the stems and leaf rachises can often have a reddish tint. Ethnobotany: Fruits were eaten, made into jam and beverages. Etymology: Rhus is derived from rhous, an ancient Greek name for Sumac, while microphylla refers to the little leaves. Synonyms: None Editor: SBuckley 2010, FSCoburn 2015, AHazelton 2015