Lemonade Berry (Rhus integrifolia)
Lemonade berry, also known as lemonade sumac, is a shrubby tree unique to the plant communities of southern California and Baja. The shrub can grow up to to 25 feet in height and is most commonly found in the chaparral biome, often along north facing slopes of low elevation.
The fruit from this plant is edible. Although, the berry is not quite as tasty as the name suggests. This fruit is very high in various types of tannins. These tannins impart a sharp, tart taste to the berry. In general, Native Americans made a mush from the berries that was edible. It is likely the tannins were then leached from the mush before consumption.
The Mahuna people ate the lemonade berries to quench their thirst.
The Kumeyaay of the San Diego region would wad up leaves from this plant to keep their thirst at bay during long, hot journeys.
The Cahuilla people, near the Mojave Desert, soaked the berries in water and drank as a tart beverage.
Lemonade berry shrub
Lemonade berry is in the botanical family, Anacardiaceae. This family also contains poison oak and mango. Both poison oak and mango can create allergic reactions if you contact the wrong part of the plant. Many species within the Rhus genus are considered toxic.
Lemonade berry foliage in the winter.