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Plant of the Week: Toxicodenron vernix

Plant of the Week! An uncommon shrub that doesn’t get much positive attention given its name, Poison Sumac (Toxicodendron vernix) is actually a really cool plant to encounter, provided you keep some distance! Poison Sumac only inhabits high quality wetlands, so seeing it means you’re probably in a pretty special place. It looks much like other native sumac, but the leaf margins are smooth, and the berries are white rather than red. The flowers provide pollen and nectar to bees and flies, and it is a host plant for moth caterpillars. Berries provide winter food for birds. The “poison” component of the plant is a compound called urushiol, and it only affects a few mammals, including humans. The rash we experience when exposed to poison ivy, sumac, or oak is actually an allergic reaction to urushiol. To learn more about Poison Sumac, check out this article by In Defense of Plants:


Photo from In Defense of Plants

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