From the archives of Patsy Millin
The native Rhus aromatica bush has lovely fall colour.
There are differing opinions, as always, on the approaching winter, very cold, not so cold, much snow, not snow etc., but one of the joys is watching the way plants knuckle own to the cold.
Looking up at our Nature Reserve mountain recently, my eyes were drawn to brilliant small patches of rusty-red. Closer inspection revealed them as one of the Rhus genus, Rhus divaricata. The Rhus genus is part of the Anacardiaceae family, to which Mangoes belong. It is an easy genus to recognise anywhere, as the leaves are trifoliate, that is, three leaves growing from one spot on a stem. So whenever you see this, whether the leaves are rounded (Rhus divaricata), serrated (Rhus dentata) or long and thin (Rhus lancia, Rhus erosa) as a few examples, you will be able to remember is is a Rhus.
The Rhus dentata is a very decorative small tree for the garden, with shiny red-brown fruit attractive to birds. Another shrub, Rhus pyroides, is also attractive to our winged and feathered friens. In fact, a visit to an indigenous nursery should yield a number of Rhus species.
Rusty leaved leaved currant (due to the grey-green to red-brown hairs beneath the leaves). It is a decidious shrub up to three metres tall found in mountainous areas up to 2,750m.
According to Elsa Pooley’s book, Mountain Flowers, it is a good wood to use in making kieries and the dried crushed leaves are smoked to possibly cure coughts and colds.