How to Identify Poison Oak Sumac Leaves


The Asthma and Allergy Association of America approximates that more than 50 million people in the United States suffer from allergies. Seven percent of these people suffer primarily from skin allergies, and the most common triggers are poison oak, poison ivy and poison sumac. Any contact with plants belonging to the genus Toxicodendron may produce a red, itching and blistering rash. One of the easiest ways to identify poison oak and poison sumac is to look at the leaves, which will help you avoid the plants during outdoor activities.

  • Check the shape. Poison sumac leaves are large and smooth, not serrated or toothed. Poison oak leaves are smaller and may be slightly toothed or completely smooth.

  • Count the number of leaves. Poison sumac has long red stems, with seven to nine leaves on each one. Poison oak leaves have three distinct, pointed leaflets per leaf.

  • Notice surface features. Poison oak leaves tend to be very shiny, while poison sumac leaves have a distinct variegated appearance. The veins may be bright red, especially if you look at the underside of the leaf.

  • Look at the color. Both poison oak and sumac leaves are green in spring, turn the full hue of yellows and reds in fall, and drop in winter.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you come into contact with either poison oak or poison sumac, immediately wash the area with soap and water, then see your primary care physician.

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