We bought several of these trees in Golden Valley a couple years ago and they were sold to us as “California Shade trees.” They were about 2 – 3 ft tall and grew to 6 feet in the first year and to about 8 or 9 ft now. Last year we bought a couple more.
I had people tell me that they stink. Since our trees aren’t up wind from the house, I’ve never smelled anything. Apparently they emit the odor only at certain times.
I didn’t their real name until I saw one at Angela’s blog yesterday and she sent me the link to her post Tree of Heaven with a closeup of a leaf with the nodules that emit the stink. I checked the leaves on our trees and sure enough, they had those same nodules. Apparently all our trees are males as I haven’t seen any flowers at all.
They sure like water and the more water they have, the faster they grow. Directly behind the sumac on the right is the little cattail pond with our gray and rain water and it used to flow to the sumac on the left. We planted the sumac on the right late last summer and it was about 2.5′ tall. This spring I changed the overflow from the cattails to the sumac on the right and as you can see, it’s as tall as the tree planted a year earlier.
We planted one little sumac a couple years ago in our lower garden and it has not received much water. However, we now have three sumacs there and since I installed drip irrigation a couple months ago we hope that they will grow fast too. I’ll try to transplant the two little babies.
We had a great monsoon season this year and more rain than I can remember since I moved here in 2000:
They started growing fast in spring, but then the high winds broke several new branches. Of course they grew right back, but you want to plant them where you won’t risk any damage to buildings or other plants.
Many people hate these Chinese sumacs with a passion, but they’re the best trees I have found for our climate — in the right place.
They grow fast with lots of water, don’t die if they don’t receive much water, took the cold to 3 F last winter, lost a few branches in the wind, but thrive like no other tree.
However, they must be planted away from septic systems, pipes and foundations and they are alleopathic similar to walnut trees. In many areas they are considered an invasive species as they spread through suckers and seeds and are very difficult to eradicate. Of course that’s NOT a problem in the desert as we just don’t get enough rain for the trees to get established without irrigation. We had several suckers that unfortunately got eaten by rabbits. As with reeds and bamboo, there is no possibility that they’ll invade the desert.
I love the lush look and wish they were evergreen as they’re part of our privacy screen.
We planted several other trees and shrubs close to the Chinese sumacs since we didn’t know that they are alleopathic. Those trees and shrubs didn’t die (yet) but also were not exactly thriving. That’s probably because they didn’t get much water until we got the monsoon rains in August and now most greened up and are growing too.
They also have medicinal properties and Chinese medicine uses every part of the tree. A lot more info is at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ailanthus_altissima