Rhus trilobata
family: Sumac (Anacardiaceae)
ho'atoonó'ėstse, "smoke-issue plants" (Grinnell 1923 II: 180; Fisher et al. 2012)
Skunkbush sumac is small dense bush, to 2 m high, with hairy annual shoots. It has trifoliolate leaves, sparsely pilose, 2 to 3 cm long. Skunkbush sumac blossoms from May to June. The flowers are greenish. Fruits are red, felt-like, 6 mm in diameter. They ripen from July to August. Rubbed leaves smell unpleasantly. Skunkbush sumac grows on dry places. It ranges the whole Great Plains from southern Saskatchewan and northern Montana to Texas; also in the Rocky Mountains up to the northern Mexico, in the Great Basin, and California.
Skunkbush sumac leaves were dried and mixed with tobacco for smoking. If the tobacco was not available, Cheyennes mixed skunkbush sumac leaves with kinnikinnick (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) leaves and inner bark of redosier dogwood (Cornus stolonifera) (Hart 1981: 14).
Some Cheyenne believed that skunkbush leaves could relieve from a head cold. However, we don’t know how the remedy was prepared. Also, the leaves were boiled in water and medicined as a diuretic tea. Some medicine for bleeding was made from skunkbush sumac. Fruit were chewed for relieve of toothache. Some Cheyennes said that Ma'heono gave a skunkbush sumac to a medicine man. This old man took the medicine and "bore a child" (maybe a reference to some aphrodisiacal or sterility-treating effects of this plant) (Hart 1981: 14).
Cheyenne horse doctors used skunkbush sumac fruits. If a horse refused to pass a water sheet, they rubbed it ceremonially with the fruits in four directions. Before a horse race, the sumac beries were rubbed over a racing horse’s body in order that the animal was not get tired. Beside it, Cheyennes believed the plant affected the rivals’ horses, who run ahead, and took off their energy (Hart 1981: 14).
There are some mentions that members of the Cheyenne Contrary Society used this plant too. It protected them from scalding when they got dog meat out of a boiling kettle with bare hands (Hart 1981: 14).
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