How to Identify Poison Sumac


Poison Sumac is most prevalent in the eastern region of the U.S., although it sometimes grows further west, into the central areas of the country. Be alert for poison sumac in swampy areas, looking for shrubs or small trees with fruit clusters growing amidst the leaves and branches. During the growing season, poison sumac has leafy green branches that gradually turn a bright orange or red during the autumn months.

Step 1

Look for small trees and shrubs with paired leaves along the leaf stems and one leaf at the tip of the stem. The leaf stems of poison sumac are red and they appear like feather fronds with between seven and 13 smooth leaves along each stem.

Step 2

Avoid plants with leaves as described in step one and with clusters of yellowish flowers that mature into whitish fruit. The flowers and fruit droop among the leaves and branches.

Step 3

Differentiate between poison sumac and nonpoisonous sumac by looking at the leaves and fruit. Leaves of nonpoisonous sumac have jagged edges, are more numerous in number and have red fruits that grow from the ends of the leaf stems instead of the centers.


  • U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine: Poison Sumac
Keywords: poison sumac, poison sumac shrub, poisonous substance in poison sumac

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Kathryn Hatter is a 42-year-old veteran homeschool educator and regular contributor to Natural News. She is an accomplished gardener, seamstress, quilter, painter, cook, decorator, digital graphics creator and she enjoys technical and computer gadgets. She began writing for Internet publications in 2007. She is interested in natural health and hopes to continue her formal education in the health field (nursing) when family commitments will allow.