How to Identify Poison Sumac

How to Identify Poison Sumac. If it's leaves of three, let it be. That is the saying for poison ivy, a vigorous, vining nuisance that can cause a rash for most people who touch it. But some people can't identify another common rash causing plant, called poison sumac. Here's how to identify poison sumac.

Things You'll Need

  • Wild plant field guide with color pictures
  • Heavy clothes and heavy gloves

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Buy a field guide to plants. Look for one that has color photographs and a good description of plants. Small travel size field guides are on the market and many of these smaller ones are helpful in identifying plants, especially the poisonous variety.

Consider the habitat in the surroundings of the plant. Poison sumac prefers wetland and bog areas. It can grow up to 20 feet but tends to grow in the 8 to 10 foot range.

Find poison sumac's fruit. Non-poisonous sumac grows fruit on the ends of the leaves. However, poison sumac's fruit grows in the center between the main stems of the leaves. Look for creamy white or light yellow berries. The berries hang down from the center.

Look for red stems. Poison sumac has red stems that stay red all year long.

Observe feather-like leaves in odd numbers ranging from five to thirteen. The leaves have a glossy, waxy look and they turn bright red and orange during fall.

Tips & Warnings

  • Wear gloves when you try to identify poisonous plants. This will help you avoid touching the plant and getting a reaction from it.
  • Poison sumac, along with poison oak and poison ivy, can still cause a reaction during the winter months when the plant is inactive. Be careful of unidentified plants during these leafless periods when it's hard to identify them.
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