Staghorn sumac (
) is commonly seen all over New England growing in dry rocky/gravely soils often creating a thicket. The name probably comes from the fact that the fuzzy younger branches resemble the velvety antlers of a young male deer. This time of year, the lingering reddish brown fruits are prominent. These tiny hairy fruits, will be eaten by many bird species in late winter/early spring after the more desirable berries and fruits are no longer available, and insects have yet to emerge. When fresh, Staghorn sumac berries make a nice refreshing lemonade-type drink if steeped in water, crushed, and strained. It can be sweetened with maple syrup, sugar, or honey. Years ago I used sumac berries as a natural dye for wool. You can achieve different shades of brown depending on the mordant you use.
(Submitted by Lynn Knight, January 29, 2020)