Staghorn Sumac is a tree that has intrigued me for many years, yet I knew relatively little about it. This year the brilliant display of its leaves triggered something in me that was very profound. I simply could not get enough of its brilliant reds and oranges as I walked my dogs along a local trail that I had recently been acquainting myself with. Since the trail runs east and west, along with some incredible sunsets, there has been such a brilliant display of reds, oranges and greens in recent weeks. The Staghorn Sumac has become a new friend amidst an already huge list of trees that I love.
I have two young trees that appeared a few years ago on my land as it has been slowly regenerating and enlivening. I have allowed them to grow in the middle of two gardens because I know I will love the eventual color they will bring in the fall to my landscape. In Europe, Staghorn Sumacs are highly regarded ornamental trees but here in the US, because they grow easily in the wild, they are considered invasive in some areas despite being a native species. I tend to believe that every plant and tree has a purpose and knows better than we do, what needs to be in a certain landscape. These trees provide food for songbirds and other animals as they anchor the soil and prevent degradation of the landscape while slowly revitalizing it, not to mention the sheer beauty that their color provides for the human eye. The brilliant red color is linked to the 1st chakra, the energy center that is primal to our sense of groundedness and foundation within our body, as well as our sense of safety and well being in the world.
I felt this tree was calling to my heart so I decided to learn more about it and found out that the cluster of red fuzzy berries on the female trees, were actually edible and highly nutritious. I was pleasantly surprised to find out they are loaded with vitamin C and other antioxidants. The tree has a long history of medicinal use by Native Americans in treating digestive and respiratory issues, as well as overcoming infections and healing wounds due to its antifungal properties. If I follow the doctrine of signatures and just look at the brilliant color of its leaves, I feel that this tree helps to restore balance to the heart and circulation, not just to humans, but also to the land it inhabits.
Staghorn Sumac belongs to the family of trees and shrubs called Anacardiaceae which interestingly contains the word 'cardiac' meaning relating to the heart. I know these trees are helping the land breathe again, as they are often found in hedgerows alongside roads or where the land has been somehow disturbed. I also found references to its use in circulatory problems which didn't surprise me because I feel that this is the tree's purpose- to restore balance and flow of energy and to heal with its softness.
I love the soft, silkiness of the Staghorn Sumac's bark. That soothing feeling reflects a gentleness of the properties of this tree that decorates our wild landscapes. I trust that its medicinal properties also gently heal the heart and all the cells of our body as we ingest this gift from the Earth. There is something so vibrant and yet so primal about this tree, that I know I need to develop a deeper relationship with it. What better way than to create a drink from its berries? This week, for the first time I sampled the nectar of the soft, fuzzy berries after allowing them to seep for 24 hours in water. The drink is tart, yet refreshing and nutritious. After my test run, I decided to gather some more berries and made a large batch. I'm excited to get to know my new ally more intimately and reap the benefits of this medicinal tree. After drinking a full glass yesterday, I could feel the richness of my dreaming returning to me and I'm looking forward to my daily ritual of sipping this newfound nectar.
Clarissa Harison is an advocate for the natural world and has been writing since the 90s about her experiences with nature on behalf of those who have no voice. Her travels and observations healing her own land, as well as her diverse background in international studies, energy of space, the corporate world and consulting/teaching work have led her to develop an intimate understanding of the perfection existing in nature and our own individual journey of finding our way back to ourselves and ultimately restoring the well being of our planet.
Copyright 2017 Awen Environments/Clarissa Harison. All photos and content subject to written permission by author.