Late August honey plants: Rhus chinensis.

August and Sept is a tough time for honey bees. Goldenrod is starting but not going strong yet around late Aug so honey bees are always trying to find something good for them. Two good plants bloom around this time: China sumac and seven son’s flowers.

I noticed last year (Aug 22) that a large bush of sumac was blooming around Aug 22 and filled with honey bees. Frank and Peter from botany identify them for me as Chinese sumac or nutgall tree, Rhus chinensis (Anacardiaceae). The bush is located near the MSU Music building (right across from the Beal Botanic Garden on circle drive).  I took some photos last year but they were not very good. So I decided to redo them this year.  I checked about 4 times this year (since June!)  but finally saw them in bloom Aug 31 and saw them totally buzzing with honey bees.

This species of sumac produces galls in China which is called Wu Bei Zi (五倍子) in Chinese. The call is formed due to infestation by an aphid (Melaphis chinensis). I assume that the aphid did not get introduced to US so I did not see any galls. Wubeizi in China is used to treat coughs, diarrhea, dysentery and for stopping internal bleeding.  Compounds inside galls have been shown to have antiviral, antibacterial, anticancer, hepatoprotective, antidiarrheal and antioxidant activities.

1. So many bees buzzing!

2. A close up.

3. This bee is apparently foraging for nectar.

4. Foraging for nectar but also with pollen in baskets.

5. The flowers seems to be complete (with both male and female parts).

6. Side view of a worker drinking nectar from Rhus chinensis.

7. A drop of dew/rain water still visible on the left.

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Author: Zachary Huang

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