MicroCT of a Staghorn Sumac

Figure 1. Staghorn Sumac mounted with claw

Staghorn Sumac (Rhus hirta (L.) Sudworth) is a common Midwest and Northeastern plant with palm-like leaves and a distinctive red coned fruit that is actually a cluster of small fuzzy seeds. The fruit is what makes this plant highly regarded, especially to Native American tribes, where the fruit is used to make a pink lemonade by soaking it in cold water, and straining out the remaining constituents.
Using the claw mount, an optional holder for the Skyscan Micro-CT systems (see related tip of the month: October 2013), the Staghorn Sumac was fixed in a vertical position that enabled complete and clear images of just the sample. After scanning the staghorn sumac fruit, the images reveal the complexity of the internal structure. Looking at the 2-D cross sectional images of the fruit in DataViewer, one discovers the intricate array of seeds and the matrix of stems that support them (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Axial slice of Staghorn Sumac showing seeds and stems.


As an application, the 2D images can be useful to analyze the germination characteristics of staghorn sumac seeds. One aspect that affects germination is the amount of moisture entering the seeds. Studies have shown that the passage of staghorn sumac seed through the digestive system of rabbits, ring-necked pheasants, and quail increase germination1. The reason for this is due to acid break down that weakens the seed coat, allowing moisture to enter and start the germination process.  Micro-CT image would be a useful tool for studying seed coat variation before and after digestion.

Someday if we find someone with a pet rabbit we might be able to test this application. Until then, if you think you have an application using one of our Micro-CT systems that you would like to share for an image of the month, please feel free to e-mail info@microphotonics.com. We are always looking for new and exciting ways to demonstrate the capabilities of Micro-CT imaging.

Scan Settings


SkyScan 1173 High Energy Micro-CT





Pixel Size


Rotation Step



NRecon, DataViewer


Micro Photonics Imaging Laboratory, Allentown, PA

Courtesy of

Brandon Walters, Laboratory Technician, Micro Photonics


  1. http://plants.usda.gov/factsheet/pdf/fs_rhhi2.pdf







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