img_2885

Sumac

Not really presenting this post as a Fabulous Fall Foliage Photo Folio

(please, say those last five words three times fast)

more as an advertisement for a neglected part of autumn.

Sumac is often scrubby and undistinguished, and every fall, I realized that it’s rarely mentioned,

when people are exclaiming over the maples and aspens and oaks.

Kind of a mutt – – too leggy and sprawling to be used as a shrub in your yard, but seems too small to be a real “tree.”

It usually grows like a big clump of weeds – –

in neglected corners of fields, along roadways and railroad beds, or behind barns.

 

dsc00098

 

I read up on it a bit, and find that in other countries, the dried “fruit” is used as a lemony spice.

I’ve never heard of anyone using the North American version in this way.

But I’ve been informed, that I’ve eaten it, and liked it:  it’s a key ingredient in  Middle Eastern “za’atar” seasoning

(there’s a lot of versions, but thyme, sesame seed, and dried sumac seem to be the constants).

Just try saying “Za’atar!  Sumac!  Sesame!”  out loud,

and see if it doesn’t sound pretty cool and exotic.

 

img_2902

 

The only use I can think of for its wood:  kids cut it into foot-long sections, push out the pithy center, and use it for pea-shooters.

I’ve also read that Native Americans used the sections as pipe-stems, but I don’t know if this is true.

The Iroquois tribes around this area, grew beans, corn, and squash, but not peas, so I guess the pea-shooter idea was of no use to them, and they had to stick with tomahawks and arrows.

(Actually, we generally used the the smallest fruits from hawthorns, or inkberries, not actual peas, depending on the caliber of the shrub we’d cut that day).  But there are two other attributes that make this little-noticed, unkempt little tree kind of special.

 

 

For kids in this part of the world, the little groves of sumac were the closest thing we’d experience to a bamboo thicket.  Only kids could eel their way through the dense stands of sumac, like Br’er Rabbit escaping a fox.  Say, hypothetically, if you used your pea-shooter to ambush a larger cousin walking by.

 

dsc00099

 

And every fall, having gone the entire summer in scruffy obscurity, it faithfully turns beautiful reds, yellows, and oranges.

Always, without fail.

Having gone the entire summer in generic, innocuous obscurity, just as autumn begins, it flames out with style.

 

dsc00091

 

The leaves hang in festive rows, like tiny ceremonial banners for the autumn celebration,

a mousey shrub suddenly looking quite elegant.

Sumacs are like the quiet, unassuming, small-town guys, that you always forget are Shriners, until one day, out of the blue, they break out their red velvet fezzes, have a few belts, and parade down the avenue in their crazy bright brocade uniforms.

 

I don’t use the expression, but sumac seems to meet the definition of a “hot mess” – – disheveled but attractive.

 

img_2886

 

Finger Lakes, FLX, hiking, Ithaca, NY, Uncategorized, Upstate New York, Waterloo

Pictures of Upstate New York in October. Staghorn Sumac

Image

11 thoughts on “Pictures of Upstate New York in October. Staghorn Sumac

  1. Jan Theobald says:

    Sumac redeems itself in the fall. It is such a scrubby bush, but the colors are a vivid red , which makes beautiful patterns. This is a fun post, as always😊

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ha! Down here in Texas (well, I’m in Arkansas now, but you get the point) sumac is one of our few bits of autumn color, and it’s well beloved. As a matter of fact, I’ve been taking some sumac photos on my travels. Unfortunately, due to a number of cyber-complexities, I can’t upload any until I get home, but there will be sumac.

    It’s interesting that its scrubby little self shows up in some many regions of the country. It must be adaptable, too. I suppose there are varieties, but I’m feeling too lazy just now to explore that.

    In any event, your photo’s a nice one. What I’ve found still is in the process of turning — no great swaths of red down here yet.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ll look forward to some competent sumac photos, I didn’t do them justice. Having a few technical difficulties, here, too = in South American with the wrong cable, and cannot download from my camera, not a lot of camera shops around (0), waiting on the mail. So I’ve been thumbing through the back catalog on my laptop. The fall pics of NYS are last year’s, taken with a cellphone, and wasn’t really focusing on sumac at that time

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s