kolagirl(z5 MI)July 14, 2004

I heard there are different varieties of sumac poison and otherwise...does anyone know these and how to tell the difference????

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lycopus(z5 NY)

There is poison sumac and then there is poison ivy.

In michigan you can have two species of poison ivy, eastern poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) and western poison ivy (Toxicodendron rydbergii). The eastern poison ivy is a tall vine and the one you are most likely to brush up against in the woods. The western one is a low growing shrub that forms a sparse ground cover and rarely gets more than a few feet tall. It is typically found in sandy or rocky soil. Both have the characteristic three leaves. Note that the middle one has an elongated petiole (or leaf stem). The leaf margins can be smooth or serrated or toothed. It is often suggested that the leaves are shiny but they can become dull with age.

Poison sumac is a woody shrub that usually has grey stems and pinnately compound leaves with often a reddish rachis. It is mainly confined to bogs or other acid areas and is somewhat rare, at least here.

Here's a picture of western poison ivy in bloom

And one of poison sumac, again in bloom

    Bookmark   July 14, 2004 at 10:32PM
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Poison 'sumac' is not a typical sumac, and is no longer in the sumac genus, Rhus.

True sumacs are nonpoisonous, and many have great fall color and attractive growth form. Some (perhaps most) are too large and/or too aggressive for typical urban/suburban settings.

USDA lists 17 species of Rhus occurring in the U.S. To find more about species in your area, go to the linked site and search using the common name 'sumac' or (better) the scientific name 'Rhus'.

Here is a link that might be useful: USDA PLANTS Database

    Bookmark   July 15, 2004 at 10:59AM
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WE have sumac that is twenty feet high. The cardinals love to eat the red berries all winter. The leaves are poisonous I am told but we don't eat them so it hasn't been a problem. Actually we are trying to get rid of a lot of it due to its invasive nature and we want a vegetable garden. The fall color is nice but short lived and they are very messy dropping leaves all summer and growing into the grass. Ours is the kind you see in the ditch by interstates, only much taller.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2004 at 4:04PM
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mscratch(z6 S.E. Mo.)

I was so relieved to find that there is no poisonous sumac in S.E.Mo. When we lived in Md., I was eat alive with it nearly every year. I have tasted the tiny red berries and find them zesty.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2004 at 8:56AM
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The fuzzy red berries from the Sumacs here in Ottawa can be made into a tea and cooled for a refreshing drink. According to Ewell Gibbons it tastes like lemonade. I'd love to grow some in my yard but am aware of their aggresive behaviour. You'd need to restrict the roots with some kind of non degradable barrier.


    Bookmark   July 26, 2004 at 2:08PM
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lycopus(z5 NY)

I've made the sumac drink. The key is to collect them as soon as they ripen and to steep them in cold water. Tastes a little like lemonade but mostly just the acidity part. I've also heard of the hairs from the fruit being used as a seasoning.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2004 at 9:05PM
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