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Toxicodendron pubescens

Previously known as:

  • Rhus acutiloba
  • Rhus quercifolia
  • Rhus radicans var. pubescens
  • Rhus radicans var. toxicodendron
  • Rhus toxicarium
  • Rhus toxicodendron
  • Toxciodendron quercifolium
  • Toxicodendron toxicarium
  • Toxicodendron toxicodendron
Phonetic Spelling
toks-ee-ko-DEN-dron pew-BES-ens
This plant has high severity poison characteristics.
See below
Description

Poison Oak is a native, deciduous, erect, low-growing shrub. It is a member of the Anacardiaceae or Sumac family. The shrub can grow up to 10 feet tall but usually averages 2-4 feet in height.  Other common names include Atlantic Poison Oak and Eastern Poison Oak.

The shrub is common to the coastal plains of North Carolina but rarer in the piedmont. They are native to the central and eastern United States. 

The genus name, Toxicodendron, is Greek and a combination of two words. Toxikos, tranlates to "poison" and dendron, meaning "tree." The species name, pubescens, means "covered with fine hairs."

The shrub is found in dry and sandy areas in forests, natural areas, or thickets.

Poison Oak's roots are rhizomes, and the shrub often forms large colonies. Their leaves are green, alternate, and the upper and undersides of the leaf are pubescent. The leaves tend to crowd towards the ends of the stems. In the fall, the leaves are a vibrant orangish-red. Flowers appear in the spring and are panicles of yellowish-green blooms. Late spring, clusters of pubescent greenish-white to tannish-white drupes appear. Birds are attracted to the fruits, and they spread the seeds. The stems are also pubescent, and the bark is smooth and light brown in color.

Poison Oak contains the toxin Urushiol, which is also found in Poison Ivy and Poison Sumac. All parts of this plant are poisonous and will cause severe skin redness, itching, blistering, and swelling. Symptoms may occur through direct contact or by cross-contamination of clothing/tools that have been in contact with the plant. Contact with smoke from a burning shrub may also result in symptoms. It is never safe to handle this shrub in any stage of its growth or even when dormant.  Always wear protective clothing to prevent contact with this plant.  Thoroughly wash your hands, clothing, and tools with soap and water after exposure.

The distinctive features of the Poison Oak include:

  • alternate compound leaf with 3 Oak-like leaflets
  • lobed or toothed margins
  • finely pubescent stems and leaflets
  • low erect shrubs
  • found in dry areas

 

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#poisonous#shrub#deer browsing plant#non-toxic for horses#non-toxic for dogs#non-toxic for cats#contact dermatitis#toxic to humans#food source birds
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#poisonous#shrub#deer browsing plant#non-toxic for horses#non-toxic for dogs#non-toxic for cats#contact dermatitis#toxic to humans#food source birds
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Toxicodendron
    Species:
    pubescens
    Family:
    Anacardiaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    central and eastern United States
    Distribution:
    USA: AL, AR, DC, DE, FL, GA, IL, KS, LA, MD, MO, MS, NC, NJ, OK, SC, TN, TX, VA, and WV Introduced: USA--IL; Czechoslavakia
    Wildlife Value:
    Birds are attracted to the berries. Deer will eat the leaves and fruits.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Native Plant
    Poisonous
    Shrub
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Erect
    Maintenance:
    Low
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Sand
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Occasionally Dry
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    5a, 5b, 6b, 6a, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Cream/Tan
    Green
    White
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Spring
    Fruit Type:
    Drupe
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    Tight clusters of greenish-white unripe berries appear in late spring. When ripened, they turn a tannish-white. They measure 0.25 inches in diameter and are pubescent. Birds are attracted to their fruit.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Panicle
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    The flowers appear in panicles. Each flower has five greenish sepals, five yellow-greenish petals, and five stamens. The filament of the stamens is green, and the anthers are yellow. The blooms are small and rather inconspicuous. They typically bloom in the spring from March to April.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Leathery
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Orange
    Red/Burgundy
    Leaf Type:
    Compound (Pinnately , Bipinnately, Palmately)
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Obovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Dentate
    Lobed
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    The leaves resemble the leaves of the White Oaks tree. They usually are crowded at the end of the stem. They appear alternately and are trifoliate. The leaf shape is ovate to elliptic. They may be lobed or have toothed margins. The leaves are typically leathery in texture, dark green to yellowish-green, and pubescent on both sides. In the fall, the leaves turn a vibrant reddish-orange.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Light Brown
    Surface/Attachment:
    Lenticels
    Bark Description:
    The bark is light brown and smooth. Lenticels are present.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Gray/Silver
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Buds:
    Hairy
    Stem Form:
    Straight
    Stem Surface:
    Hairy (pubescent)
    Stem Description:
    The stems are slender, grayish-brown, and slightly hairy or glabrous. The buds are velvety in texture.
  • Landscape:
    Attracts:
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Dry Soil
    Problems:
    Contact Dermatitis
  • Poisonous to Humans:
    Poison Severity:
    High
    Poison Symptoms:
    Skin redness, itching, swelling and blisters.
    Poison Toxic Principle:
    Urishiol
    Causes Contact Dermatitis:
    Yes
    Poison Part:
    Bark
    Flowers
    Fruits
    Leaves
    Roots
    Sap/Juice
    Seeds
    Stems