Skunkbush (Rhus aromatic ssp. trilobata)
Other Names: skunkbush sumac, lemonbush, threeleaf sumac
Family: Anacardiaceae (Cashew family)
Description: grows 2-6 feet tall, usually forming mound-like or upright thickets. Leaves are three-lobed and approximately 1 inch long. They are deciduous, turning from dark green in the spring and summer to rusty red in the autumn. Tiny yellow flowers emerge before leaves and turn into dark red berries.
Range: occurs throughout the western United States from California to Kansas, north into Canada, and south to Texas. It can be found throughout Colorado National Monument.
Did you know: the skunkbush is a member of the cashew family, which also includes poison ivy. Unlike the itch-inducing leaves of the poison ivy, however, the leaves of the skunkbush do not produce oils that cause allergic reactions. Instead, this plant's leaves contain highly aromatic oils that are released when the leaves are crushed, and it is for the offensive odor of these oils that the skunkbush is named.
Did You Know?
Each Independence Day, local climbers scale the iconic Independence Monument in Colorado National Monument and raise an American flag on top. This tradition dates back to early park promoter John Otto, whose route up Independence Monument climbers still follow.