Overview

Brief Summary

Unlike the other North American Toxicodendron species (the four species of Poison-ivy and Poison-oak), Poison-sumac is unlikely to be encountered by most people since it typically lives in shady swamps and bogs. It is a shrub that may grow to 5 m with leaves composed of 7 to 13 smooth-margined leaflets. It can be found across much of the eastern United States and adjacent Canada. Poison-sumac and its close relatives are well-known for possessing skin-irritating oil (urushiol), which can cause severe allergic reactions in humans.

Poison-sumac is one of just five North American Toxicodendron species now generally recognized: Common Poison-ivy (T. radicans), Western Poison-ivy (T. rydbergii), Eastern Poison-oak (T. pubescens), Western Poison-oak (T. diversilobum), and Poison-sumac (T. vernix) (Gleason and Cronquist 1991; Senchina 2006).

Senchina (2008) reviewed the literature on animal and fungal associates of Toxicodendron in North America.

  • Gleason, H.A. and A. Cronquist. 1991. Manual of Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada, 2nd ed. The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, NY.
  • Senchina, D.S. 2006. Ethnobotany of poison ivy, poison oak, and relatives (Toxicodendron spp., Anacardiaceae) in America: Veracity of historical accounts. Rhodora 108(935): 203-227.
  • Senchina, D.S. 2008. Perspectives in Plant Ecology. Fungal and animal associates of Toxicodendron spp. (Anacardiaceae) in North America. Evolution and Systematics 10: 197-216.
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Comprehensive Description

Description

This shrub is 10-25' tall, consisting of a trunk up to 6" across and a relatively open crown. Trunk bark is light gray and relatively smooth, except for scattered lenticels that resemble small bumps. Branch bark is also light gray and more smooth, while twigs are orange, tan, or brown and usually glabrous (less often pubescent); twigs have numerous small lenticels and prominent terminal buds that are purplish red. Alternate compound leaves occur along the twigs; these leaves are 6-14" long and odd-pinnate with 7-13 leaflets. Petioles and rachises of the compound leaves are red to yellowish red and glabrous. Individual leaflets are 2-4" long and 1-1¾" across; they are ovate or oblong-ovate and smooth along their margins. The petiolules (basal stalklets) of the leaflets are up to ¼" long and usually bright red. The upper surface of the leaf blades is medium to dark green and glabrous, while the lower surface is pale green and usually glabrous (less often sparsely pubescent). During the fall, the deciduous leaflets turn orange or red. Because Poison Sumac is usually dioecious, the same shrub produces either all male (staminate) or all female (pistillate) flowers. Less often, both male and female flowers are produced on the same shrub, while other shrubs produce perfect flowers. The flowers are produce in panicles from the axils of the compound leaves; individual panicles are up to 8" long and 4" across. The peduncles and petioles of these panicles are glabrous or finely pubescent. Individual flowers are about 1/8" across, consisting of a short green calyx with 5 teeth and 5 green or greenish yellow petals. Each male flower has 5 stamens, each female flower has a pistil with a single style, while a perfect flower has both a pistil and 5 stamens. The filaments of the stamens are white, while their anthers are yellow. The blooming period occurs from late spring to early summer for about 2 weeks. Fertile female and perfect flowers are replaced by one-seeded drupes during the summer. Individual drupes are about ¼" across, globoid to ovoid in shape, and glabrous. They are initially green, but become white or grayish white at maturity. The panicles of drupes have a tendency to droop downward; they can persist on the shrub through the winter. This shrub has a tendency to form vegetative sprouts from the base.
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Distribution

National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

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Localities documented in Tropicos sources

Rhus vernix L.:
Canada (North America)
United States (North America)

Note: This information is based on publications available through Tropicos and may not represent the entire distribution. Tropicos does not categorize distributions as native or non-native.
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Localities documented in Tropicos sources

Toxicodendron vernix (L.) Kuntze:
China (Asia)
United States (North America)

Note: This information is based on publications available through Tropicos and may not represent the entire distribution. Tropicos does not categorize distributions as native or non-native.
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Ecology

Associations

Faunal Associations

The flowers are cross-pollinated by small bees and flies, which seek nectar and pollen. A few insects have been observed to feed on the leaves of Poison Sumac. These species include the caterpillars of the moths Eutelia pulcherrima (Beautiful Eutelia), Marathyssa inficita (Dark Marathyssa), and Paectes oculatrix (Eyed Paectes). Both the adults and larvae of Blepharida rhois (Sumac Flea Beetle) also feed on the foliage. The whitish drupes are eaten by the Ruffed Grouse, Ring-Necked Pheasant, Bobwhite, and undoubtedly other birds, particularly during the winter, when other sources of food are scarce. The Cottontail Rabbit has been observed to gnaw on the bark and twigs of young shrubs.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Rhus vernix

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 3
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Barcode data: Toxicodendron vernix

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Toxicodendron vernix

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 1
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N4 - Apparently Secure

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Cultivation

The preference is full or partial sun, wet to moist conditions, and mucky, peaty, or sandy soil that contains decaying organic material. The soil pH should be more or less acidic. This shrub can tolerate standing water for several months each year.  Range & Habitat
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Wikipedia

Toxicodendron vernix

Toxicodendron vernix, commonly known as Poison sumac, is a woody shrub or small tree growing to 9 m (30 ft) tall.[1][2] It was previously known as Rhus vernix. This plant is also known as thunderwood, particularly where it occurs in the South. All parts of the plant contain a resin called urushiol that causes skin and mucous membrane irritation to humans. When burned, inhalation of the smoke may cause the rash to appear on the lining of the lungs, causing extreme pain and possibly fatal respiratory difficulty.

Description[edit]

Poison sumac is a shrub or small tree, growing up to nearly 30 feet in height. Each pinnate leaf has 7–13 leaflets, each of which is 2–4 inches long. These are oval-to-oblong; acuminate (tapering to a sharp point); cuneate (wedge-shaped) at the base; undulate (wavy-edged); with an underside that is glabrous (hairless) or slightly pubescent (down-like hair) beneath.

Its flowers are greenish, growing in loose axillary panicles (clusters) 3–8 inches long. The fruits are subglobose (not quite spherical), gray, flattened, and about 0.2 inches across.

Poison sumac

Distribution[edit]

Poison sumac grows exclusively in very wet or flooded soils, usually in swamps and peat bogs, in the eastern United States and Canada.[3]

Toxicity[edit]

In terms of its potential to cause urushiol-induced contact dermatitis, poison sumac is far more virulent than its relatives poison ivy and poison oak. According to some botanists, poison sumac is the most toxic plant species in the United States (Frankel, 1991).

The dermatitis shows itself in painful and long continued swellings and eruptions.[1] In the worst case, smoke inhaled by burning poison sumac leaves results in a medical condition pulmonary edema whereby blood enters lungs and the victim dies of suffocation.[4]

Poison sumac June2013.jpg

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Keeler, Harriet L. (1900). Our Native Trees and How to Identify Them. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. pp. 94–96. 
  2. ^ Rucker, Colby. "Tall Trees of Maryland". Maryland's Tallest Native Tree Species. Retrieved 20 January 2012. 
  3. ^ USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service: Toxicodendron vernix
  4. ^ Poison sumac: Facts to be known

References[edit]

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