CPC Plant Profile: Michaux's Sumac
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Plant Profile

Michaux's Sumac (Rhus michauxii)

This shot shows the varied fall color in the leaves of false poison sumac. Photo Credit: Rob Gardner
  • Global Rank: N/A
  • Legal Status: N/A
  • Family: Anacardiaceae
  • State: FL, GA, NC, SC, VA
  • Nature Serve ID: 148771
  • Date Inducted in National Collection: 02/09/1992

Half of the known historical populations of Rhus michauxii have been extirpated in the last century. The few remaining populations are in a precarious position for a number of reasons, perhaps the most important of these being the species low reproductive capacity and its dependence on disturbance. The clonal nature of Rhus michauxii and the geographic isolation of the populations have led to low genetic variability. This situation is exacerbated by the fact that most of the populations do not contain plants of both sexes. The open, sunny habitat necessary for the establishment of Rhus michauxii was historically provided by fire, while today most populations are found in sites that are cleared artificially. Unfortunately these sitesroadsides, rights-of-way, railroads, agricultural fields and pine plantationsare under the constant threat of catastrophic disturbance. The status of this species depends heavily on our efforts to protect its habitat and maintain sexually reproducing populations.

Participating Institutions
Nature Serve Biotics
  • 05/02/2017

Endemic to the inner Coastal Plain and lower Piedmont of Virginia, Georgia, and the Carolinas (a historic collection from Florida may have been a waif). Currently, the species is known from approximately 50 extant occurrences. In 1993 a large, prolifically fruiting population was discovered on U.S. Army lands in Virginia, and the Army is now actively protecting the plants. Most extant populations are now protected and managed for. Overall, however, the species has been in decline: in the 100 years following its discovery in 1895, half of all the historic occurrences were extirpated, largely due to habitat conversion to agriculture and other uses. These threats are ongoing as are threats from the nearly universal suppression of natural fires within this species' range, geographic fragmentation and isolation of small, single-sex populations, hybridization with other species, and the potential for accidental destruction of roadside and other vulnerably situated populations.

  • 01/01/2010

Geographic isolation of small sized, single sex populations Habitat conversion to agricultural and silvicultural activities Residential and industrial development Fire suppression Mechanized military training activities (potential) Hybridizatio

  • 01/01/2010

36 populations (2 in GA, 3 in VA, 31 in NC) (North Carolina Ecological Services 2002)

  • 01/01/2010

Genetic analyses have provided information on how the current genetic variation is distributed among the extant populations. A cooperative effort between the University of Georgia, NC Nature Conservancy, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service's Asheville, NC Field Office. (Sherman-Broyles, et al 1992). Demographic studies of 14 North Carolina populations, and further research on species biology conducted by the NC Field Office of The Nature Conservancy (Savage et al. 1991). Rare and endangered plant survey of Fort Bragg, NC (Russo et al. 1993). Propagation techniques have been researched at the North Carolina Botanical Garden (Gardner 1995).

  • 01/01/2010

Reintroduction efforts at Fort Bragg (NC) as well as at historic sites in Georgia Prescribed burning is being conducted at NC Sandhills Game Lands and at Fort Bragg Restoration plans include the introduction of the alternative sex into single-sex populations, and the use of donor populations with the highest levels of genotypic diversity (as determined by genetic research, above) Material for reintroduction has been propagated by two commercial nurseries (Niche Gardens in Chapel Hill, NC and Woodlanders in Aiken, SC) (USFWS 1993)

  • 01/01/2010

It appears that research has been directing management practices appropriately. As always, continued monitoring, additional surveys, and the protection of additional suitable habitat are needed. The success of reintroduction efforts should be evaluated, as well as the efficacy and timing of burning/mowing to maintain open habitat. A primary goal of research and management should be to increase the number of sexually reproductive individuals.

  • 01/01/2010

Perform additional genetic analyses to determine effects of efforts to conserve genetic diversity.


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Taxon Rhus michauxii
Authority Sarg.
Family Anacardiaceae
CPC Number 3743
ITIS 28787
Common Names false poison sumac | Michaux's sumac
Associated Scientific Names Rhus michauxii
Distribution Historically endemic to the Coastal Plain and Piedmont of the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida; today the range is disjunct, with populations in Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia (USFWS 1993).
State Rank
State State Rank
Florida SNA
Georgia S1
North Carolina S2
South Carolina SX
Virginia S1

Found in the sandhills/coastal plains communities of rocky, open woods, especially in slightly loamy, well-drained soils high in magnesium. Requires full sun. (USFWS 1993)

Ecological Relationships

Some form of disturbance required to maintain open habitat. This was historically provided by fires, while today populations exist in areas that are periodically cleared or mown (i.e. roadsides, rights-of-way, field edges).

Common Name Name in Text Association Type Source InteractionID

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