What does poison sumac look like?

While most people are concerned about poison ivy, they often forget the other members of that dangerous botanical family. Poison sumac is a sister plant to poison ivy and can produce the same painful type of rash. Many people know what to look for with poison ivy plants. What about poison sumac identification? The plants may seem similar to the untrained individual, but there are several differences between the two. When it comes to poison sumac identification, we have some suggestions on what to watch for to avoid an unpleasant encounter.

Poison Sumac can grow taller than poison ivy. While poison ivy is usually a vine or small shrub, poison sumac can be either a shrub or a tree.  It can reach up to 20 feet tall with long branches sweeping downward in tree form. As a shrub, poison sumac can be identified by the leaves and vines. The leaves will be growing in an upward direction instead of a downward like poison ivy. The leaf pattern is different than the usual rule of three associated with poisonous plants.  The leaves of poison sumac are grouped together with multiple rows of two leaves equaling anywhere from 6 to 12 leaves with one large leaf occupying the head of the branch. Leaves differ from poison oak and ivy in that they are spoon-shaped with smooth edges. The stems of a poison sumac shrub will display a reddish brown color and may have small yellow or white flowers. The flowers will eventually turn into inedible white or gray berries. It is important to note that leaves, flowers, and berries that have fallen from the plant are still poisonous and should be avoided.

While poison ivy is more common, poison sumac can be harder to identify in its tree form. You should identify the leaves, flowers, and berries, but that is not always enough. An easy way to determine if a tree is indeed poison sumac, aside from studying the leaves, is the trunk of the tree. The bark will display a rough gray color with a little bit of greenish tinge.

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