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Toxicodendron vernix

Previously known as:

  • Rhus aequalis
  • Rhus venenata
  • Rhus vernix
Phonetic Spelling
toks-ee-ko-DEN-dron VER-niks
This plant has high severity poison characteristics.
See below
Description

Poison Sumac is a native, deciduous, erect shrub or small tree, and It is a member of the Anacardiaceae or Sumac family. The tree has an open crown and grows to 25 feet in height with a trunk 6 inches across. It often sprouts at the base of the shrub or tree. Other common names include Thunderwood and Swamp Sumac. 

They are typically found in the coastal plains of North Carolina. They are rarely seen in the piedmont or mountain sections of North Carolina. They are native to eastern Canada as well as east-central and eastern United States. 

The genus name, Toxicodendron, is Greek and a combination of two words. Toxikos means "poison." Dendron means "tree." The species name, vernix, is Latin and means "varnish."

The shrub or small tree is found primarily in bogs, marshes, swamps, and thickets along river banks. It prefers acidic soil and full to partial sunlight.

Poison Sumac leaves are dark green, alternate, and compound with 7-13 leaflets. In the fall the leaves turn a brilliant orangish-red color. The flowers are greenish-yellow with 5 petals and appear in dangling panicles. Birds and rabbits are attracted to the ripening yellowish-white drupes. The stems are reddish, and the bark is smooth and grayish brown with lenticels. Poison Sumac resembles a young Ash tree. The Ash tree has alternate leaves instead of opposite leaves, and its fruits are winged samara instead of drupes. 

Quick ID Features:

  • long, smooth, alternate leaves with 7-13 leaflets and entire margins
  • red stems or rachis connecting to the leaflets
  • black sap from the trunk
  • grows in swamp or moist flooded areas

Insects, Diseaes, and Other Plant Problems:  Poison Sumac contains the toxin Urushiol, which is also found in Poison Ivy and Poison Oak and all parts of this plant are poisonous and will cause skin redness, itching, blistering, and swelling. Inflammation and fluid can accumulate in the lungs from inhaling the smoke from burning Poison Sumac, which can be fatal. Always wear protective clothing to prevent contact with this plant. Thoroughly wash your hands, clothing, and tools with soap and water after exposure,

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#poisonous#non-toxic for horses#non-toxic for dogs#non-toxic for cats#contact dermatitis#toxic to humans
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#poisonous#non-toxic for horses#non-toxic for dogs#non-toxic for cats#contact dermatitis#toxic to humans
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Toxicodendron
    Species:
    vernix
    Family:
    Anacardiaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Eastern Canada and East Central and Eastern United States
    Distribution:
    Canada: Nova Scotia, Ontario, and Quebec USA: AL, CT, DE, FL, GA, KY, IL, IN, LA, ME, MD, MA, MI, MN, MS, NH, NJ, NY, NC, OH, PA, RI, TN, TX, VT. VA, WV, WI
    Wildlife Value:
    Small bees and flies are attracted to the flowers for nectar and pollen. Caterpillars of moths such as Eutelia pulcherrima (Beautiful Eutelia), Marathyssa inficita ( Dark Marathyssa), and Paectes oculatrix (Eyed Paectes) feed on the leaves. The adult and larvae of the Sumac Flea Beetle also eat the leaves. Bobwhites, Ring-necked pheasants, and Ruffled Grouse consume the fruits in winter. The Cottontail Rabbit gnaws on the bark and twigs of young shrubs.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Poisonous
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Erect
    Growth Rate:
    Medium
    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:
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Moist
    Occasional Flooding
    Occasionally Wet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    3a, 3b, 4b, 4a, 5b, 5a, 6b, 6a, 7a, 7b, 8b, 8a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Gray/Silver
    Green
    White
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Long-lasting
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Summer
    Winter
    Fruit Type:
    Drupe
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    The female flowers form clusters of dangling, smooth, round, berry-like drupes. They measure less than 1/4 inch in diameter and contain one seed. The drupes ripen from green to a dull yellowish-white in the late summer. The berries may persist through the winter and provide food for birds and rabbits. The fruit is toxic to humans.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Panicle
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Summer
    Flower Shape:
    Cup
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    The flowers appear as drooping panicles up to eight inches long and four inches wide. Each flower has five greenish-yellow petals that appear early to mid-summer. The flower is less than 1/4 inch in diameter. Male and female flowers are usually on separate plants. The male flower has five white stamens with yellow anthers. The female flower has a pistil and one style. If it is a perfect flower, there are both a pistil and five stamens. The calyx cupping the flower has five pointed lobes. The flower is toxic to humans.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Smooth
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Orange
    Red/Burgundy
    Leaf Type:
    Compound (Pinnately , Bipinnately, Palmately)
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Oblong
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Undulate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    The leaves are alternate, compound, and measure 8-13 inches long. New growth may be reddish. There are 7 to 13 shiny dark green leaflets. The leaflets measure 2 to 4 inches long and 1-1.5 inches wide. They are elliptic to ovate in shape with entire margins. The undersides of the leaflets are a dull green. The rachis or stems are pale to bright red and smooth. The leaves turn bright orange to red in the fall. The leaves are toxic to humans.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Light Gray
    Surface/Attachment:
    Fissured
    Lenticels
    Bark Description:
    The bark is smooth and grayish-brown with dark horizontal lenticels. The sap turns black when exposed to air. The bark is toxic to humans.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Orange
    Red/Burgundy
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Buds:
    Hairy
    Stem Bud Scales:
    Enclosed in more than 2 scales
    Stem Leaf Scar Shape:
    Heart or shield shaped
    Stem Lenticels:
    Conspicuous
    Stem Surface:
    Smooth (glabrous)
    Stem Description:
    The stems appear pale to bright red and smooth. The twigs are stout, smooth, and orangish-brown in color. They have numerous dark lenticels. The leaf scar is large and shield-shaped. The buds have downy scales. Dark-colored sap oozes from the stem if it is broken or cut. The stems and sap of the plant are toxic to humans.
  • Landscape:
    Attracts:
    Bees
    Moths
    Small Mammals
    Problems:
    Contact Dermatitis
    Poisonous to Humans
  • Poisonous to Humans:
    Poison Severity:
    High
    Poison Symptoms:
    The possible symptoms include an itchy rash, redness, swelling, blisters, sores, fever, coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. Inhaling burning poison sumac can potentially be fatal because it causes lung inflammation and fluid build-up in the lungs. Ingestion may cause gastrointestinal inflammation.
    Poison Toxic Principle:
    Urushiol
    Causes Contact Dermatitis:
    Yes
    Poison Part:
    Bark
    Flowers
    Fruits
    Leaves
    Roots
    Sap/Juice
    Seeds
    Stems