Winter Botany Study, Part 2: Smooth Sumac

Day 1: Smooth sumac stems popped into a jar of tap water. ….. waiting, waiting waiting …….

Day 39: One of the sumac stems (stem #1) is showing life. The terminal bud and first lateral bud appear to be swelling and greening up a bit. Very promising. Unfortunately stem #2 may have fallen victim to rough treatment (or a curious cat?).

Day 45: Stem #1 is definitely full of life. The scales on the terminal bud have begun to open and immature leaves are breaking free. very cool. Stem #2 …… has shriveled up and I must assume there’s no hope of recovery. very sad

Day 47: The terminal bud from Stem #1 is actively growing. I can begin to make out the compound leaf arrangement. The color of the bud scales is becoming a darker shade of green; the emerging leaves are bright spring green. Although the first lateral bud is still green, it seems to have stopped swelling. All of the stem’s energy is feeding the leaf development in the terminal bud.

Day 51: Wow! The growth of the emerging leaves from the terminal bud is rapid. The bud scales are almost fully open; there are at least 5 compound leaves emerging, all of varying stages of development; there are at least 10 leaflets per compound leaf, and they look to be evenly pinnate.

Is it too late to plant the stem in soil? How much more growth will take place if the stem remains in water? Will the bud scales the bud scales continue to open even more, continue to darken, fall off? how many leaves will emerge, and how many leaflets will each leaf have? Does this development mirror what will happen in the field? Will this winter botany study turn into a spring-in-the-field study?

For another update, read Winter Botany Study, Part 3


  1. peacefulbird says:

    Wow! This is so much fun! I actually awoke this morning thinking about Part 1 and hoping for Part 2. And “yes” to answer your question about a spring-in-the-field study… absolutely will look forward to that! Your drawings are so beautiful, even without all the information they reveal. This work you are doing feeds me! Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow …. Super kind comments, Robin, and thanks for following. I definitely will be watching the outdoor population closely!


  2. goodlifecp says:

    Woohoo and how exciting! I would guess that you should be able to plant in soil as soon as you have a strong root system. If that’s the case, will you plant on your property?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is exciting. So far there’s been no root development, but I’m somewhat hopeful. I’m afraid to plant the stem into soil before any sign of roots, for fear it will rot.


  3. peacefulbird says:

    Been doing some internet research… Rhus Glabra is native to dry slopes and draws in eastern Washington’s shrub-steppe; can be found along forest edges, grasslands, and roadsides; however I do not find it listed on any of the San Juan County or western WA lists, except as cultivated. You didn’t mention of Stem #1 is showing any sign of root development…. of course “curious minds” want to know!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Based on our location of R. glabra, it makes sense that WA populations are more central and eastern. Wonder what Rhus species may be found elsewhere in the state? Sadly, no root development. Thanks for noticing my oversight in description. I don’t think the stem will take root in soil. More likely it will rot? But yiu know I will try!


  4. ktarter says:

    The details of your artwork and narrative always amaze me! Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so very much, Karin!


  5. Carol Wright says:

    Your detail descriptions are amazing.


    1. Wow! Thanks so much Carol!


  6. Sarah Reid says:

    Roots? Is anything happening on any leaf buds that happen to be under water, like roots? I love this study, Barb! I love all the text (including the curious cat). If it survives, are you planning to plant it in a pot (for future transplanting, if so, where) or in your yard? I have been so interested to see how my buddleia clippings sprout from the leaf buds on the stems stuck into soil — I have been doing this for many years to create new plants to share with others. It seems like most successful ones are when I do that with multiple clippings per pot — perhaps they really need the mycorrhizal support of each other to get going? As a matter of fact, this is how I have a collection of 5 different colors of buddleia! The prize one was clippings from a friends yard of YELLOW blooming buddleia! I wonder, would a buckeye seed/nut root in water, like a hyacinth bulb if it already has a starter root? Hmmmm … CA buckeye, here I come.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love how your mind thinks, Sarah! A yellow butterfly bush? No way! I’ll have to try sticking stems from mine in the ground to see if they root. Maybe in my new butterfly garden beds? Ohio buckeye ….. what a magnificent ‘nut’ in every way ….. so shiny and smooth. So back to my smooth sumac. You and a few others found my omission from the journal pages. No roots! Not even a hint of roots. At this point, if I tried sticking the stem in soil it’s likely to rot. So just today, I was back wandering the sumac patch and collected another to try rooting it in some garden soil without soaking the stem in water. Another rabbit trail! Thanks for the comments, and for sharing your trials with butterfly bush’s!


      1. Sarah Reid says:

        For the buddleia I take a clipping about 10″ long, pinch off the biggest leaves on the lower bud terminals, stick it in soil — a pot is best I think for consistent temperature and moisture — making sure at least two or three of those terminals are deep in the soil. I usually put in three or four of those clippings to a gallon pot hoping at least one will root. Of course the leaves wilt and they look horrible until suddenly TA-DA! For your sumac, do you have any rooting medium? I wonder if that or Sure Start would help encourage roots? I tend to use Sure Start with anything I plant (even 6-packs of annual flowers) or anything I transplant (IF I remember). You got me looking at buds today. Only just in a few hours of 80 degree weather so many popped open just this afternoon! RAIN RAIN RAIN pppppllleeease!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Sarah Reid says:

    I’m sorry Barb, somehow I missed the previous comments! I got some answers reading them and your responses. Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No worries! I loved your message and had fun with a reply!


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