Poison Sumac Rants

staghorn sumac

For some reason, people seem to get particularly steamed up about poison sumac. Specifically, they yell at me when I say it is fairly rare and only grows in very wet areas. I have had people tell me I don't know what I am talking about a number of times, and that they have tons of poison sumac in very dry areas. So I politely ask for photos and the plant always turns out not to be poison sumac. It is often another common variety of sumac. Sometimes it a tree that has many-segmented leaves but is not a type of sumac at all; walnut leaves, for example, are configured this way.  

In about 15 years of doing this, I have gotten 3 actual cases where it WAS poison sumac, two of which I personally went to visit. Both of them were in very wet areas, one of which had the plants growing IN the water.

My botanist buddy had been looking for poison sumac for 15 years in New England and never found it until we went to investigate one of the actual sightings together.

Thing is, staghorn sumac, the stuff with the red berries and very lovely red fall leaves, grows along almost every highway, just like poison ivy. So people may assume poison sumac is as common as poison ivy. But it ain't necessarily so. In fact, it ain't so at all.

The photo shown with this blog post is staghorn sumac. See actual poison sumac here.