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How to Identify and (Safely) Remove Poison Sumac in Maryland

Toxicodendron vernix is a simple shrub (which can also grow as a tree) with thirteen leaves on each stem that takes on an alluring red during the fall season. However, despite its colorful appearance, this isn’t a plant you’d want to cultivate at home. That’s because Toxicodendron vernix is the Latin name for the plant more commonly known as Poison Sumac. Though more commonly found deeper south, poison sumac still crops up occasionally in Maryland, particularly on the eastern shore.

Poison sumac is far more likely than its relatives (poison oak & ivy) to cause a contact rash, and the results are invariably more severe. A rash from poison sumac manifests as painful swellings and eruptions and can be easily transferred by scratching to other parts of the body or people. Burning poison sumac is extremely dangerous. Inhaling any of the smoke could cause death by suffocation and anyone who does so should immediately be transported to a hospital.Poison sumac


In Maryland, Poison Sumac can either manifest as a shrub or small tree with between 7-13 oval-shaped leaves on each stem. The leaves turn a bright red in the fall and are green throughout the rest of the year. Poison sumac leaves have smooth edges and grow in parallel rows along each stem. During the spring poison sumac often produces small, whitish-yellow or pale green flowing buds, which turn into white berries in the late summer and fall. Poison sumac typically grows in very moist or flooded soil.

Note: Poison sumac has a relative of similar appearance whose edges are jagged (and often bears red berries rather than white) rather than smooth. This is a non-poisonous cousin, which also grows in Maryland, called staghorn sumac.

Poison Sumac Removal

Before attempting any kind of removal, it’s important to be aware of your own allergy levels. If you have a history of bad reactions to other poisonous plants (particularly poison ivy or oak) or you are unsure, DO NOT attempt to remove poison sumac yourself. Immediately section off the yard around it and call a landscaping professional.

For those not allergic poison sumac may be removed via the following procedure:

Carefully mix 1 pint of commercial vegetation killer with 1 pint of diesel fuel in a metal coffee can. Take care to avoid splashes or contact with the skin. Wearing protective clothing (rubber gloves, long sleeves, pants, and a face shield) quickly clip the poison sumac to within a couple inches of the ground. Dip a paintbrush in the poison mixture and liberally brush the fluid on the fresh cut, coating the cut completely.

The gloves, can, brush, and mixture should be immediately discarded in a toxic waste bin (DO NOT BURN) after treating the poison sumac. The diesel delivers the poison throughout the entire root system via reverse capillary action. It is absorbed through the cut in the plant and then drawn the roots. The herbicide then takes over and swiftly kills the entire plant all at once.

Need Help?

Poison sumac removal can be dangerous even when following all the proper procedure. Why risk hurting yourself when you could simply employ an experienced professional who can safely remove the poison sumac speedily?

If you’re looking for assistance with poison sumac or have any other winter lawn care questions than contact the Atlantic Maintenance Group. The Atlantic Maintenance Group is a full service landscaping company, providing maintenance, design and construction, as well as snow removal, asphalt and concrete services.

We are your source for complete landscape and facility maintenance for commercial and residential properties throughout Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Delaware. We are a self-performing landscaping company, meaning we don’t hire subcontractors, and senior management is involved with every project. Our highly trained team of professionals receives constant, ongoing education on the latest industry trends, updates and safety measures. This ensures we can deliver outstanding customer service and results to our clients, regardless of the size of your job.

If you have any questions about outdoor lighting, or to get your free quote today, give us a call at 410-768-4720 or contact us via our website today.

Sources: Living Space 360,

This entry was posted on Monday, October 6th, 2014 at 9:34 pm. Both comments and pings are currently closed.