Autumnal Sumac (Poison Sumac)


Poison sumac (hereafter referred to as autumnal sumac) is considerably widespread through the United States and Europe, thriving in moist or wet meadows or on spotty limestone. Initially it’s a pretty plant with vales of white, funnel-shaped flowers which bloom in late May and early June. However, if ingested by humans, the leaves, stems, and even rachis of its seed heads contain cyanogenic glycosides which cause death by your cells that break down into hydrogen cyanide.

Brief History of Poison Sumac

Autumnal sumac, Rhus venenata, is a species of flowering shrub, native to North America. The plant grows to 3 meters tall, with alternate lance-shaped leaves and showy clusters of pink or red flowers. The fruit is a capsule filled with blue-black seeds. Autumnal sumac is found in oak-hickory forests throughout the eastern United States and Canada.

Poison sumac is an envenomed bush that can cause extreme pain and swelling if ingested. Since it’s common to find the plant growing near the ground among low-lying shrubs and vines, accidental contact with the leaves or fruit can easily result in a painful injury if ingested. Symptoms of poisoning typically begin 12-24 hours after ingestion and may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, high blood pressure, and hallucinations. If left untreated, poisoning may result in kidney failure and even death. If you think you may have ingested poison sumac, seek medical attention immediately.

How to Identify Poison Sumac

Poison sumac (Rhus poisonous) is particularly dangerous and can kill if ingested. The berries, leaves, and stems are all poisonous.

The berries are pale green and globular. The leaves are alternate, between 1-3 inches long, finely tapering at the base, ovate to elliptical in shape with a acute apex, and crenate margin. The stem is 0.5-1 foot tall, leafy, crooked, and occasionally branched.

The POISON SUMAC SAFETY PAGE has detailed information on what to do if you come into contact with poison sumac.

What causes Poison Sumac Symptoms

Fall is a time of change, both in the natural world and in our personal lives. Nature is ushering in fall by scattering leaves and turning the landscape an array of oranges, reds, and yellows. At the same time, our days are growing shorter and we’re reaching the end of another semester. In order to move forward into these exciting changes, it’s important to know what to watch out for as we transition from summer to fall.

One thing you need to watch out for is poison ivy. This pesky plant can cause painful rashes if you come into contact with its Leaves, which can be mistaken for the leaves of other plants. If you do come into contact with poison ivy, wash the area immediately with soap and water and seek medical help if necessary.

Dangerous When Consuming

Poison sumac can be dangerous when consumed. The plant can cause a rash and swelling of the face, throat, and lips. Sumac can also lead to an allergic response, which in severe cases can cause anaphylactic shock.

Toxic Qualities of Poison Sumac

Autumnal sumac (Rhus alleghaniensis) is a shrub native to eastern North America, where it grows in disturbed areas, such as along the banks of streams. The shrub produces ripe berries from late summer to early autumn, and the berries can be toxic to humans if ingested.

The berries of autumnal sumac are small, green, and round; they have a tart and sour taste and can cause severe skin reactions in some people. The dried leaves and fruits of autumnal sumac also contain chemical compounds that can be harmful if ingested. Ingestion of large quantities of autumnal sumac may result in vomiting, diarrhea, and even death.

September on the Trail

Autumnal sumac is a poisonous shrub found in the eastern and Midwestern United States. It has red, orange, and yellow leaves that can turn an intense purple or even black in the fall. The stems and twigs are also toxic. If ingested, it can cause a rash, dizziness, and problems with breathing.


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