Rhus trilobata, also known as Three-leaf sumac, Skunk-bush, Basket-bush, and
Lemonade-bush, is a versatile plant that can grow in most climates including
cold regions and hot, moisture deprived regions. Described as a shrub, this
plant usually grows in elevations above 3000 feet. Rhus trilobata is deciduous
and commonly known to grow in height to between three and twelve feet tall.
The leaves have three leaflets and can range in color from green in the summer
to red-orange in the fall. It produces yellow flowering buds in the springtime,
which eventually turn into red berries that are toxic to neither humans nor
animals. The Rhus trilobata has been domesticated and is widely available
Rhus trilobata has been used historically by various Native American tribes.
The bark of the plant was chewed as a cold remedy; the fruit was used as prevention
for hair loss, the treatment for smallpox, and as an astringent. The leaves
were boiled for contraception and gastrointestinal aid, and the roots were
used for a tuberculosis treatment as well as a deodorant.
Non medical uses include using the plant material for basketry, fishing tools
and decoration. Dried leaves could be mixed with tobacco and smoked. The berries
were used to make tea, a lemonade-like drink, porridge, bread and cake.
Copyright 2003 Northern Arizona University.
page was authored by Stepnanie Boucher