Rhus hirta (R. typhina)
The Staghorn Sumac is an ornamental tree reaching up to 10M (30 feet). Endemic to the Northeastern United States, the tree can be found in the Piedmont of Virginia and Maryland. Being of the Anacardiaceae family, the Staghorn Sumac is related to the Cashew, Poison Ivy, Mango, and Lacquer tree, from which the prized Japanese Lacquerware (urushi) is produced.
While the tree can be mildly toxic to some, causing rashes, its cone cluster of fruits was commonly used by Indigenous people of the Americas to make cold brew teas. Rich in tannins, boiling the fruit will make it bitter. These tannins however are valued as a natural dye and are often combined to improve the quality of dye mixes and in tanning leather.
The velvety fruits persist through the winter proving to be an excellent emergency food source for the ruffed grouse, ring-necked pheasant, eastern phoebe, common crow, northern mockingbird, gray catbird, American robin, wood thrush, hermit thrush, eastern bluebird, and over 30 other species. Its spring blossoms attract many honeybees (Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center).
One of the threats that bumblebees face is the destruction of their habitats. It is therefore crucial to provide the necessary shelters for these valuable pollinators, catering to their specific needs, such as nesting in a warm and dry place. These shelters have been designed to have a single entrance and holes in the back to prevent condensation.