Posts Tagged Smooth Sumac

Wild Fruits of the West Village

Wild Fruits of the West Village . . .

Rhus coriaria
(NYC 07 2018)


The growing season appears good. Strung between brights days have been beads of clouded days flush with rain enough to make the city green space lush.

The crabapple grove in the park is so much an orchard as the roadside strip of sumac bearing berries ripe for the making of cool drinks. Many of the fruiting trees are now heavy with their fruit.

Malus
(NYC 07 2018)


And some has already dropped to damp earth.

Ginkgo biloba
(NYC 2018)


— rPs 07 31 2018

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Second Half Fireworks

Second Half Fireworks . . .

 

Sumac Candle Panicle NYC 07 2016

Candle Flame: Sumac, genus Rhus, begins to bloom. (NYC 07 10 2016)

 

Again my head turns toward the Sumac. The flowering tree’s form has by its distinction in Autumn and Winter been visited before. Trees that flower and fruit are the largest of the Wildflowers of the West Village in scale. The dimensions of their blooms, often in multitudes, remains modest, gives scent, sweet aroma, to the watered cleansed air flowing off the Hudson.  Genus Rhus by its panicles stands on a pinnacle point within the five boroughs.

July begins the second half of the calendar year. The candle flame panicles of the Sumac catch fire in step with the traditional fireworks at the start of month. Army green trees in a blink flame on with a rich blend of reds. Trees from a distance advertise their berries. The panicles from that vantage look like berry dots across fixed fields of green. “Berries Offered Here” the message seems to say. Many of Manhattan’s birds, native American Robin and immigrant European Starling, feast here. So may humanity. The spikes, or panicles, will evolve by Autumn into ripe dense clusters of russet berries capable of a fine brewed cold press beverage.

 

Sumac Rhus NYC 07 2016

“Berries Offered Here” (NYC 07 2016)

 

For now, though, that beverage is something best served with, or as, ice. Hot summer for the wildflowers and their appreciators has arrived: the fires of July.

– rPs 07 11 2016

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The Symmetry of the Sumac

The Symmetry of the Sumac . . .

Symmetrical branches of Smooth Sumac, Rhus glabra, reach up toward a gray January sky along the High Line. (photo taken 01 13 2012)

A gray windy day in January is one of the few times one can find solitude on the High Line. During a walk there this week, I found time to watch and to listen to this outdoor space on its own, without the hum and hover of humanity.

I perceived that there must be as many varieties of brown in January as there are green in June. The wind sounding through the dry stalks and branches contained as many subtle tones as the murmur of multiple conversations. What stood out the most to me was found in the basic forms of the plants. The skeleton, the architecture, of a flower, shrub, or tree is delineated at this time of year. One of the most impressive examples of such naked form can be seen in the Smooth Sumac, Rhus glabra.

A native shrub family, Anacardiaceae, found throughout the eastern United States, the sumacs are known more for their summer and autumn dress: the feathery, serrated, compound leaves that turn crimson in October. The Smooth Sumac commonly forms colonies from its root system, often along roads and railways, making its appearance on the High Line both appropriate as well as aesthetically pleasing.

The Smooth Sumac is also one of the most distinctive flowering trees. The large upright panicles are the color of rich Chianti. These clusters of drupes (seeded fruits) are edible, and can be picked and soaked in cool water to make a refreshing sumac-ade. One recipe for “Wild Smooth Sumac-ade” was described by the Staten Island nature writer Ava Chin in her “Urban Forager” column for The New York Times.

The dense, upright panicles of Smooth Sumac can last throughout the winter. (photo taken 01 13 2012)

A group of panicles silhouetted against the leaden sky caught my eye, gave me inspiration and a subject for a winter wildflower. I paused in the wind, which was making whitecaps on the steel-colored Hudson in the background, and there I contemplated the forms of the Smooth Sumac branches. I was delighted by the symmetry of the tips, which spread like the pointed fingers of an open hand. I noticed also that the branches did not just spread opposite and parallel, like arms and hands. The fingered projections themselves were twisted and bent in the exact same manner as well.

The Classical orders of architecture, the Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian being basic examples, were derived by the Greeks and Romans from organic forms. The Smooth Sumac, in winter, reminded me that humanity with its mathematics does not possess a monopoly on graceful, even symmetrical, functional form.

Fodder for natural philosophical thought as the annual and perennial wildflowers hibernate.

"Hand" over the High Line. (photo taken 01 13 2012)

— rPs 01 13 2012

Postscript: Ava Chin’s recipe for “Wild Smooth Sumac-ade” can be found by following this link:

http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/09/04/urban-forager-shrubbery-you-can-drink/

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