26" x 24"
Near Duluth, Minnesota, United States
I have low expectations when hiking in the rain, but I shouldn’t. Colors are more saturated in low contrast lighting. And Sumac is unsurpassed for the brilliance of its autumn colors. They range from pale yellow-green through orange, red and scarlet. A month earlier these Sumacs would still have earned their reputation for outstanding redness but not on account of their leaves. In late summer dense cones of brilliant red fruit protrude from the ends of green leafy branches. Indeed, the name “Sumac” is derived from the Arabic for “red”.
While we are imagining how this scene looked a month earlier, those brown clusters were once brilliant yellow flowers of the Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare). It’s a good thing that they are not in their prime. Their vibrant yellow would overwhelm the subtle yellow of the Sumac leaves.
In contrast, the violet sprays of Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium purpureum), which were still in flower, do not distract from the composition. Their dusty rose and ochre provide a contrast with the warm Sumac colors.
The Sumac fruit is the source of a red spice used in Middle Eastern cuisine to impart a lemony taste to salads and meat. In North America we make a lemony drink (called “sumac-ade”) by crushing Sumac fruits in cool water, straining the liquid and then adding sugar or honey.
Staghorn Sumac (R. typhina) grows mainly in the Northeast, Midwest, Appalachian Mountains and Great Lakes regions including Ontario.