Scientific: Rhus ovata
Common: sugar bush
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
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 and leathery.
Growth Habit: Woody evergreen perennial, moderate rate of growth generally 6 to 15 feet in height with somewhat equal spread.
Foliage/Texture: Opposite, glabrous, leathery, ovate simple leaves to 3 inches long on a gray stem, brittle branches,trunk shapggy 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 (not much in the way of edible mesocarp).
Seasonal Color: Subtle flower display in spring and fruit display in fall, otherwise none.
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, '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 semihardwood 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. Plant it in an area without adequate space and it will not perform well when in turn it needs to be pruned regularly.