General Plant Information (Edit)
Plant Habit: Shrub
Life cycle: Perennial
Sun Requirements: Full Sun
Full Sun to Partial Shade
Water Preferences: In Water
Wet Mesic
Soil pH Preferences: Strongly acid (5.1 – 5.5)
Moderately acid (5.6 – 6.0)
Slightly acid (6.1 – 6.5)
Neutral (6.6 – 7.3)
Minimum cold hardiness: Zone 3 -40 °C (-40 °F) to -37.2 °C (-35)
Plant Height: 10 - 25 feet
Leaves: Good fall color
Fruit: Showy
Edible to birds
Fruiting Time: Summer
Late summer or early fall
Other: White berries (drupes) may stay on the plant through the winter.
Flowers: Inconspicuous
Flower Color: Green
Other: Greenish
Flower Time: Late spring or early summer
Wildlife Attractant: Birds
Resistances: Deer Resistant
Rabbit Resistant
Flood Resistant
Toxicity: Other: All parts of the plant contain urushiol which is a skin irritant.
Pollinators: Flies
Miscellaneous: Dioecious

Common names
  • Poison Sumac
  • Thunderwood
  • Poisonwood
  • Poison Ash
  • Swamp Sumac
  • Poison Dogwood
Botanical names
  • Accepted: Toxicodendron vernix
  • Synonym: Rhus vernix

Photo Gallery
Location: Tannersville Cranberry Bog in northeast PA
Date: 2018-10-24
two stems leaning over with purplish leaves at end

photo credit: James H. Miller & Ted Bodner
Location: north-central Pennsylvania by Stan Kotala
Date: November 2019
stems and trunks in winter mode
Location: State Games Lands 166 in northern Pennsylvania
Date: 2020-09-18
top of shrub shot by Stan Kotala
Photo by robertduval14

Date: 2013-04-05
photo credit: John Barber

USDA photo
Location: north-central Pennsylvania
Date: September 2020
whitish fruit
Location: north-central Pennsylvania by Stan Kotala
Date: September 2020
fall foliage
Location: State Games Lands 166 in northern Pennsylvania
Date: September 2020
mature shrubs shot by Stan Kotala
Location: State Games Lands 166 in northern Pennsylvania
Date: November 2019
Ivory-white fruit clusters shot by Stan Kotala
  • Posted by lauribob (N Central Wash. - the dry side - Zone 5b) on Jul 24, 2016 1:40 PM concerning plant:
    Care should be taken to avoid contact with poison sumac, which can be more toxic than either poison oak or poison ivy. Never burn poison sumac, as inhaling the smoke can cause life-threatening pulmonary edema.
  • Posted by ILPARW (southeast Pennsylvania - Zone 6b) on Oct 27, 2018 6:38 PM concerning plant:
    Poison Sumac is usually a shrub about 10 to 15 feet high, but is know to get up to 30 feet high as a multi-stem tree. Its compound leaves are 7 to 15 inches long with 7 to 13 leaflets, each about 3 to 4 inches long and without margin teeth and they turn bright red or purple in the fall. It produces clusters of greenish-yellow flowers that bear ivory-white rounded drupes about 1/3rd of an inch in diameter on the female plants. The bark of the stems is thin, smooth, and gray-brown. As the name implies, this plant does contain the toxic oil that causes bad rashes. Its native range is from along the Gulf of Mexico from east Texas to central Florida, up to southern Maine, over the southeast tip of Ontario, through Ohio, north & central Indiana & Illinois, lower Michigan, all Wisconsin, into a little of eastern Minnesota growing in swamps, bogs, and in areas of wet, clay soils, usually acid. Poison Sumac is not a common plant and not just everywhere in its range. Many people don't know nor have seen this shrub and get it mixed up in their minds with the two vine species of Poison-Ivy and Poison-Oak that are much more common. Like true Sumacs, this is not a true sumac species having very different fruit, it is a member of the Cashew Family (Anacardiaceae), as are the two vine species.
  • Posted by mellielong (Lutz, Florida - Zone 9b) on Apr 23, 2015 11:39 AM concerning plant:
    The book "How to Know the Wildflowers" (1922) by Mrs. William Starr Dana gives us some useful information on how to tell the difference between the poison variety and the more "innocent" sumacs. The poison variety can be distinguished by the "slender flower clusters which grow from the axils of the leaves, those of the innocent sumacs being borne in pyramidal, terminal clusters." Later in the year, you can tell the difference by the color of the fruit. The poison sumac has white or dun-colored fruits, while the other is crimson.

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