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As a comment about Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina), JuneOntario wrote:

After touching the leaves and branches of this plant with my bare hands, I had a bad allergic reaction (I had red, painfully itchy skin from my scalp to my feet, my ears and tongue swelled up, I felt nauseated and passed out, and I had a severely upset stomach for several days). Wear gloves when pruning branches, pulling suckers, or collecting-up the leaves of this plant!
Name: Rob Duval
Mason, New Hampshire (Zone 5b)
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robertduval14
Dec 31, 2013 10:26 PM CST

Plants Admin

Are you certain it was THIS particular species that caused you the troubles? The berries are and have been used for making tea for a very long time and the dried berries and leaves are to this day mixed with tobacco and smoked in some Native American cultures.


Poison Sumac (Toxicodendron vernix), previously known as Rhus vernix, on the other hand, can cause all sorts of problems.

Also, are you sure there was no other plant growing up and into the sumac in question. Poison Ivy is insidious in its tendencies to be everywhere you think it isn't. (It happens to love growing in the same areas that Staghorn Sumac grows, often clinging to and climbing up the sumac)

Just wondering because I've never heard of this species causing problems. I grows EVERYWHERE in my area. I'm in it often in the course of my job. I've chipped it up in chippers, surely breathing in some of the dust. I've burned trimmings from it in open fire pits and have surely inhaled some of it's smoke and never had any trouble.

That is not to say it was not this species causing you trouble, as people can be allergic to just about anything, but I'd hate to give a bad rap to the wrong plant.
Name: June
Rosemont, Ont. (Zone 4a)
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JuneOntario
Jan 1, 2014 10:02 AM CST
Rob, the plant in question was Rhus typhina 'Laciniata', bought from a nursery and planted in my garden. It definitely was not Poison Sumac, and there was no Poison Ivy in the area. The first time I was ill, I didn't know what had caused my reaction, since it didn't start until after I had finished gardening. It wasn't until the third occurrence that I realized that the sumac was the common factor. Then I did some reading, and found a reference that said some people may have an allergic reaction after absorbing through their skin the oils contained in the leaves and downy stems of many Rhus species (not just Poison Sumac). So, it's not everybody that is affected, but anyone handling this plant for the first time should be cautious.

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