Why I Cut Down the Staghorn Sumac

Staghorn sumac – botanical name rhus typhina – is an interesting structural element in the garden most of the year, and utterly spectacular in the fall.

Staghorn Sumac, May 2009

Staghorn Sumac, May 2009

This picture shows that the staghorn is – at least, mine was – a rather sparse tree. It was already here when I moved in, and I found that it was rather delicate – branches small and large came down with every bad storm. This picture was taken just a year and a half after I moved in, and it was already rather skimpy.

Unfortunately, it was putting all its energy into sending out suckers. Dozens of them.

Then in fall one forgot about the scantiness of limbs and branches and the suckering problem.

Staghorn Sumac in Fall 2011

Staghorn Sumac in Fall 2011

Incredible, isn’t it?

But as the years passed I got more and more frustrated with the amount of work necessary to keep the tree under control, and less enchanted by the fall display because I was no longer forgetting what an irritant the tree was.

This year, with my determination to renovate the yard, I made my decision – it had to come out. I’d had enough.

And in case you don’t believe me about how badly a staghorn sumac suckers, here’s proof. All these pictures were taken after the tree was removed. The suckers are anywhere from two feet to 20 feet from the parent plant. And even if you cut them off, you’re leaving behind the suckering root itself, which may or may not try to put up more shoots. I’m using everything in my arsenal, including Roundup Poison Ivy and Brush Killer, to get rid of them once and for all.

Sayonara, sumac. I don’t miss you a bit.

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2 Responses to Why I Cut Down the Staghorn Sumac

  1. Tejinder says:

    Hi were you able to get rid of it permanently. I am struggling with same problem and its roots are everywhere under my lawn.

    • Echo says:

      No, I haven’t gotten rid of the sprouts completely yet. Whenever I find one I spray it with Roundup poison ivy killer (stronger than plain Roundup). This is best absorbed through the leaves so you have to be careful not to get it on surrounding plants. I figure all I can do is keep after it and hope that the herbicide travels far enough back along the root to have a wider impact than on just the sprouts I spray. Good luck to you!

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