Rhus Vernix—Poison sumac
FAMILY: Anacardiaceae—the Cashew Family (see Rhusradicans)
PHENOLOGY: Poison sumac flowers May through July.
DISTRIBUTION: Poison sumac is found in bogs, swamps, marshes, and shaded wooded wetlands.
PLANT CHARACTERISTICS: Poison sumac is a swamp shrub growing to 5 meters, often branched from the base; leaves: compound; leaflets: odd-pinnate, 7-13 per leaf, oblong to elliptic, 4-5 cm, entire, glabrous; fruit: drooping panicles of berries, grayish white, 4-5 mm; produced August through November, evident all winter.
POISONOUS PARTS: All parts of the plant contain the contact irritant.
SYMPTOMS: Refer to Rhus radicans.
POISONOUS PRINCIPLES: The toxins for poison sumac have not been characterized but are probably similar to those found in poison ivy.
CONFUSED TAXA: There are several "sumacs" in Pennsylvania. All of the nonpoisonous ones have erect, not pendulous fruits, and are found in drier soil. They also have toothed or serrate leaflets unlike the entire margin in poison sumac. The Tree-of-heaven (Aijanthus altissima (Mill,) Swingle) is a rapidly growing, weedy tree common in cities. The leaflets of Ailanthus have one or more coarse, basal teeth, each with a large gland beneath. In addition, tree-of-heaven produces winged fruits with a central seed.
SPECIES OF ANIMALS AFFECTED: Probably only humans will encounter poison sumac in bogs or swamps.
TREATMENT: Refer to Rhus radicans.