What is this red tree in Tennessee?

tree with red leavesThe Question: I live in northeast Tennessee in the national forest area at the foot of Holston Mountain, near Bluff City, Tennessee. I spied this bright red tree from my house, mixed in with some other trees. I don’t know what to call it.

Submitted by: Fred, Tennessee, USA

(click on photos and graphics to expand)

winged sumac leavesThe Short Answer:
I’m nearly certain your tree is a winged sumac (Rhus copallinum), which turns bright red in the fall. Sumacs have a compound leaf, with many leaflets on a single stem. If you look closely at the photo you took of leaves, you can see the “wings,” which are ribs that extend out from the stems between the leaflets. They look as if leaves are growing out sideways from the branches.

Fred’s Response: Fred was very happy to know the name of this tree. He told me, “Our family pets are buried beside that winged sumac. It just means more now.”

Cashews, Sumacs, and the Poisons: Winged sumac, the cashew tree (Anacardium occidentale), and poison ivy are all closely related in the family Anacardiaceae. In fact, Rhus, the genus that includes winged sumac (which is not poisonous), used to include poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac before those species were split off into a separate genus, Toxicodendron.

Thanks to: Thanks to botanist Michael Marcotrigiano, who identified this tree from the photos.

Cite this article as: Pelletier, TC. (April 2, 2017). What is this red tree in Tennessee? Retrieved from http://askanaturalist.com/what-is-this-red-tree-in-tennessee/ on April 27, 2018.

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