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Products > Rhus ovata
Rhus ovata - Sugar Bush

Habit and Cultural Information
Category: Shrub
Family: Anacardiaceae (Sumacs, Cashew)
Origin: California (U.S.A.)
Evergreen: Yes
Flower Color: Light Pink
Bloomtime: Spring
Synonyms: [Schmaltzia ovata]
Height: 6-10 feet
Width: 8-10 feet
Exposure: Sun or Shade
Summer Dry: Yes
Deer Tolerant: Yes
Irrigation (H2O Info): Low Water Needs
Winter Hardiness: 0-10 F
Rhus ovata (Sugar Bush) - This California native plant is an aromatic, evergreen shrub that grows 8 to 12 feet tall, sometimes taller, with a stout, short trunk and many spreading branches. The attractive foliage of this plant consists of leaves that are a glossy dark green, folded slightly at the midrib with smooth margins and the petiole and central leaf veins are often attractively maroon to pink tinged. The small flowers, in tightly grouped clusters, are white to rose-pink in color with dark reddish bracts and bloom at the tips of branches from March to May. The fruit is a flattish drupe that is covered with a fine reddish-brown down, inside of which is a hard stone about 1/4 inch long. Plant in full sun to light, or even dense shade. It is drought tolerant once established and hardy to 10F or slightly less, once established. This is a great plant for slope stabilization, for use as a hedge or specimen shrub or small tree. It can be kept smaller and neater by regular light pruning and if it becomes too big it tolerates a hard pruning, even to the ground, in late winter. Use care when pruning as this sumac relative has sap that can cause a rash. This plant comes from dry Slopes and canyons in chaparral below 4,000 feet from Santa Barbara County south to northwestern Baja California and inland to the western edge of the Colorado Desert and Arizona. Rhus integrifolia with its smaller dentate margined leaves and Rhus ovata, with larger, darker and smoother margined leaves are similar plants with natural ranges that overlap and hybrids do occur. The name Rhus is derived from 'rhous' an ancient Greek name for Sumac and the specific epithet is from the Latin word meaning "egg shaped" in reference to this species leaves oval leaves. The current name for this plant according to the Plant List (the collaboration between the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew and Missouri Botanic Gardens) is Schmaltzia ovata but the current treatment in the recent Jepson Manual (The Bible of California Plants!) has the current name as Rhus so we are sticking with this at least for the time being. The name Schmaltzia was given to the genus by French botanist Nicaise Auguste Desvaux (1784-1856) to honor Constantine Samuel Rafinesque (1783-1840), also known as Rafinesque-Schmaltz who, as a Turkish born multi-disciplinarian, made notable contributions in the nineteenth century to botany, zoology, anthropology and linguistics. 

This information about Rhus ovata displayed on this web page is based on research we have conducted in our horticultural library and from reliable online resources. We also will relate observations we have made about it as it grows in our nursery gardens and other gardens visited, as well how our crops have performed in containers in the nursery field. Where appropriate, we will also incorporate comments that we receive from others and we welcome hearing from anyone with additional information, particularly if they can share cultural information that would aid others in growing this plant.