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Scientific: Rhus ovata
Common: sugar bush, sugar sumac
Family: Anacardiaceae
Origin: From California's south and central coastal chaparral communities to central and southeast Arizona mountain slopes and canyons (mostly 3,500 to 7,000 feet elevation).

Pronounciation: RHUS o-VA-ta

Hardiness zones
USDA 7-11

Landscape Use: Native landscape plantings, parks, freeway plantings, restoration plantings, large landscape spaces, filler plant, background and screening plant.

Form & Character: Large, upright and rounded shrub, sprawling, informal, stiff, coarse, tough and leathery.

Growth Habit: Evergreen, woody, broadleaf perennial shrub, slow to moderate rate of growth generally 6- to 15-feet tall with somewhat equal spread.

Foliage/Texture: Opposite, glabrous, leathery, ovate simple leaves to 3-inches long on a gray stem, brittle branches, trunk shaggy brown with age; coarse texture.

Flowers & Fruits: Small terminal clusters of cream flowers (pink sepals) in late winter and spring, flowers attract bees; fruit a small reddish drupe, somewhat edible, though not much in the way of edible mesocarp.

Seasonal Color: Subtle flower display in spring and fruit display in fall, otherwise none.

Temperature: Tolerant

Light: Full sun only.

Soil: A well-drained soil is a must for this large native shrub. It is tolerant of soil alkalinity.

Watering: Give sugar bush infrequent deep irrigations in low elevation desert area landscapes for best response. In higher elevation landscapes, no supplemental water is needed.

Pruning: Prune lightly and infrequently and only as needed to maintain a natural shape. Sugar bush DOES NOT respond well to significant crown reduction, canopy thinning, or shearing. Ergo, shear-happy 'hort clods' are not welcome!

Propagation: Mostly by seed, soak seeds in warm water (slowly allowed to cool) for at least one day before sowing; some heeled semi-hardwood cuttings in summer and root cuttings in winter.

Disease and Pests: Root rot in chronically wet soils.

Additional comments: Sugar bush is a serviceable large shrub for native-style plantings. It looks best when irrigated as needed and otherwise left alone. Plant it in an area without adequate space for it to grow to full size and it will not perform well when in turn it needs to be pruned regularly.