Bogs and Acidic Peatlands of Southern New England by Marsha C. Salett
Toxicodendron vernix (L.) Kuntze
EtymologyToxicodendron means poison tree: toxicarius (Latin) = poisonous + dendron (Greek) = tree; vernix is Latin for varnished.
Synonyms (Common Name)Poison Dogwood, Poison Elder, Poison Ash, Swamp Sumac
DescriptionA deciduous, broad-leaved shrub to 8' tall or small tree to 20' tall, poison sumac causes severe skin irritation if touched; many people consider it more painful than poison ivy (T. radicans). All parts of the plant are poisonous. An obligate wetland species, it usually grows in swamps or shrub zones of fens and bogs.
Wetland indicator statusOBL
Plant Height8-20 feetshrub to 8 feet; tree to 20 feet
LeavesDeciduous, alternate, entire, pinnately compound leaves with 7-13 leaflets; to 12" long. Leaflets are obovate or elliptical, with a pointed tip, short-stalked, 2-4" long; dark green above, paler below; red leaf stalks and veins; milky sap; red or yellow in autumn.
Flower/InflorescenceMale and female flowers on separate plants; tiny, greenish-yellow flowers, in drooping clusters to 8" long, from axils of lower leaves.
Flowering PeriodMay-July
FruitYellow to whitish berry-like drupes, approx. 3/16" in diameter, in drooping clusters to 8" long, on female plant.
Fruiting PeriodSeptember, but persist over the winter.
HabitatSwamps; low, wet areas; seasonally flooded forested wetlands.
RangeMaine to Minnesota, south to Florida and Texas.
(c) 1998-2006 Marsha C. Salett