Poison Sumac

poison sumac map

Poison sumac, Toxicodendron vernix, is related to the poison ivies and poison oaks, not to the other sumacs.

It is relatively rare compared to the other members of the family. The rash-causing agent, urushiol, is the same, and it causes the same rashes. While poison sumac is rare, when you find it in its typical wetland habitat, you may find quite a bit.

The story goes that there was a lot of it where they cleared the wetland to build Disneyworld in Florida. (This happened before it was made illegal to fill in wetlands.)

poison sumac by a pond

The thin, small tree in the dead center of this image is the poison sumac. Note that it is growing in the mud right at the edge of a pond, on land so wet that the other tree species to the left have died.

poison sumac by boardwalk in a wetland

Here is a boardwalk through a wetland with small poison sumac trees growing on both sides.

If you stepped off the boardwalk, you would be up to your ankles or knees in mud and water. That is how wet a habitat poison sumac likes.

pointing at poison sumac

A botanist points to a full grown poison sumac tree with the family that lives on the edge of this wetland.

poison sumac leaves

A closer look at the leaves and flowers of poison sumac. Note that the leaves are NOT saw-toothed and the stems are red.

poison sumac sapling

Looking down at a young sapling poison sumac tree.

poison sumac growing tip

Here is the growing tip of a poison sumac tree. Notice how the end leaf has a little side-leaf. Some stalks have the little extra leaf, while others don't.

poison sumac growing tip

Closer look at how the red stems branch off the main trunk.

poison sumac berries

The loose berries that hang from poison sumac. With staghorn sumac, the berries are tightly bunched and they stand straight up, whereas these hang down.


staghorn sumac

Here you can see how the staghorn fruit stands upright, and how the leaves have saw-toothed edges, unlike poison sumac, which has smooth leaf edges.

winged sumac

This is winged sumac, which is much less common than staghorn, but much more common than poison sumac. The "wings" are the little leafy growths along the stem between the actual leaves.