Discovering the Sumac Tree

The property was basically set out like a triangular ring. In the middle was an area of cleared land and all around it was a border of densely clustered trees. It was a perfect nature-made privacy fence. Every time i went exploring i found something new. The problem was there wasn’t much time for exploring. By the time i got a day off from my job in the city there were a list of backed-up projects i needed to knock out from breakfast to sundown. That’s how i went months without realizing i had 4 mimosa trees on the property and without knowing this sideways-growing tree with the slender leaves even existed. It was right near the padlocked gate where i put my trashcan out on trash day. At first its leaves reminded me of a pecan tree but vegetation was growing all around it so i knew it couldn’t be a pecan tree. I began desperately searching google for what kind of tree had long slender pointy leaves. I had to know what it was that i had. I settled upon the only possibility that seemed to fit the size, leaves, growth environment, and berries of the tree; a sumac tree. They grew wild all over texas but there was a problem to consider. So too did poison sumac trees. The sumac trees were said to grow in hot and dry climates. They were supposed to be very drought tolerant. The poison sumac trees grew near water sources like creeks or rivers, where they could keep their roots wet. The sumac tree was said to produce white flowers that turned into red berries. The poison sumac tree produced green flowers that turned into white berries. Finally, the leaves were different. The poison sumac leaves were a little bit rounder and more plump than the long slender fingers of the sumac tree’s greenery. The poison sumac tree was rumored to produce a reaction on one’s skin several times worse than poison ivy. I was pretty sure that what i was staring at was a sumac tree and not a poison sumac tree but my friends and family seemed disturbed enough by the possibilities that they decided it best not to mess with it at all. One friend told me to hire someone to cut it down just in case. The possibility of it being poisonous was enough to condemn it to death in her eyes. I was never one to operate from a place of fear. I ignored her suggestion and did my own investigating. I was looking at white flowers. That suggested the tree was not poisonous. It was growing in a dry area and had long slender leaves. Also indications that it was not poisonous. There was only one way to tell for sure. I broke off a small branch of leaves and held it in my hand. 3 days later; no reaction. I had a sumac tree. For anyone who doesn’t know what sumac is, it’s a tangy lemony spice. It is so good sprinkled over top food! You can pay a lot of money for it in the store. I just knew it as a sticky reddish brown powder in a jar. I hadn’t ever thought of where it came from. I didn’t know it was a ground berry. I looked up when to harvest the berries and google indicated they would be ready mid-august. That was right when i was scheduled to spend a week out of town. I would have to be vigilant and pray that the berries ripened before or after my trip. This first year harvesting might be an experiment to see what i wanted to do better next year (like not leave town during harvest time) but the exciting news was, i had a wild sumac tree growing on my property, it was mature enough to produce flowers that would one day become berries, and come august, i intended to harvest, dry, and grind my own sumac for the spice rack.

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