Squawbush

Genus Rhus
Sumac Family (Anacardiaceae)



Squawbush (Lemonade Berry)

Squawbush
(Rhus aromatica or trilobata)

This shrub grows in large clumps, about 4 or 5 feet tall. They often occur on dry hillsides, along small streambeds which contain moisture only during short intervals. This small amount of extra water makes a difference, and helps the plant grow here rather than on the slightly dryer areas a few feet away.

The flowers appear early (before the leaves), and look like little catkins. The leaves have three leaflets. This plant is in the same genus as Poison Ivy, which also has leaves with three leaflets.

The reddish berries are sticky, and have a coating of a sour lemon tasting substance. (They are often called "lemonade berries".) Soaking the berries in water and adding a bit of sugar makes a good drink. The early native Americans used the berries for food, and also used the flexible branches for making baskets.