The Effective Way to Identify, Remove, and Treat Poison Sumac

Not all plants are pleasant and good to have in your garden, especially if you’re dealing with Poison Sumac.

This plant is found pretty much everywhere in North America, and it’s important for you to know how to take care of it in case you ever come across one.

The Poison Sumac, like its cousin the Poison Ivy, is, as the name suggests, poisonous. The plant has a compound called urushiol that can irritate the skin it comes in contact with.

treat poison oak

Exposure to the Poison Sumac, in particular, can cause redness, contact dermatitis, itching, blisters, swelling, and a burning sensation.

What makes this particular plant more dangerous than other poisonous plants is a slight difference in urushiol.

If you ever accidentally come in contact with this plant, it will not only ruin your day, but its effects will stay with you for a few days to come. It can really ruin a fun day outside.

identify poison sumac

Let’s find out how you can identify, remove, and treat the Poison Sumac if god forbid you ever have to!

How To Identify Poison Sumac

Poison Sumac is a 30 feet tall tree that has pinnate leaves like a fern’s leaf or a feather. Its pinnate leaves each have 9 to 13 leaflets on it placed opposite to each other.

You need to keep an eye on its leaves because they can be easily identified.

They have a pointy, tapered oval shape and can sometimes have peach-like fuzz on the underside. Its leaves are reddish, but the rest of the plant is a bit grayish.


The plant grows fruits in loose clusters that look like berries. They’re white and 5 millimeters across.

It’s important to know that there are many other trees that look like this one that originates from the Sumac family too. 

So, let us break these types of trees down to make sure you know which one it is you’re looking at.

  • Smooth Sumac: Has smooth stems. Its berries grow in dense, clustered spikes. 
  • Shining Sumac: Has grooved stems between the leaflets. 
  • Staghorn Sumac: Has fuzzy fruits and stems. Has red fruits.
  • Tree of Heaven (not a Sumac): Has leaves with notches around the base. IT does NOT produce berry clusters like Sumacs.
poison sumac

If you’re still confused, then you might just want to stay away from anything that slightly looks like it. However, you can still identify it by where it is growing.

Where Does Poison Sumac Grow?

Luckily enough, the Poison Sumac only grows in wet, swampy areas, which means you will probably not run into it very often since we generally avoid walking in those areas.

How to Remove Poison Sumac

If you happen to find Poison Sumac growing on your property, then you’re in for a lot of work to remove it.

This plant is quite dangerous and is big enough to require the help of a professional to remove it.

remove poison sumac

If you try to remove it yourself, you should be very careful not to expose your skin to it, which can end quite badly.

Again, burning the whole tree is a very bad idea since breathing in its smoke can be very dangerous. It is even believed to be fatal in some cases. So, whatever you do, do NOT burn it!

Just in case you’d like to remove it yourself, although it is not recommended, here is how to:

1- Wait for a dry, windless day!

2- Protect yourself. Eye protection, a mask, long clothing, rubber gloves, and boots are very crucial. Cover every inch of your body. (Yeah Exactly, like you are protecting yourself from CoronaVirus 🙂 )

3- Cut the tree at ground level using a saw or shears. You can even use a chainsaw if you know how to operate one.

4- A chemical herbicide such as Roundup should be used to treat the remaining base and roots. 

5- Dig up the roots and use the same chemical on them only if the tree is still small enough.

6- Do NOT burn the remains or use them as compost. Put them in plastic bags and check if your municipality allows it in their dump.

7- Rinse your tools using alcohol, and oil the joints after drying up.

8- Wash your gloves before removing your clothes. Keep the gloves on and use them to take off your clothes. 

9- Wash everything you just took off, and wash your gloves again.

10- Take a shower!

remove poison sumac

This plant is a very tricky one to deal with. If it isn’t removed after you’ve done all of this, and it keeps growing back again, repeat the whole process until it’s gone for good.

How to Treat Poison Sumac Rash

After getting in contact with this poisonous plant, immediately rinse the area it touched with lots of cool water and dish soap.

Rubbing alcohol can also be very useful. 

If your skin starts having a reaction to the urushiol, then there’s not much you can do. The rash is there to stay and it will do so for about a month.

how to treat Poison Sumac rash

But this doesn’t mean you can’t treat the symptoms. You can use some remedies such as calamine lotion, antihistamines like Benadryl, hydrocortisone creams, and some topical anesthetics.

All of the above only applies if the infection is minor and doesn’t cover more than 30% of your body.

In case it does, or it touches your eyes, your face, or genital, or if you develop a fever, then you must immediately CALL 911 or have someone take you to the emergency room immediately. 

Never scratch the affected area since that can lead to infections. This will only make things worse than they already are.


The Poison Sumac is a really tough thing to deal with and we hope you have learned new things about it from this article.

Let us know how you dealt with it and how hard it was to get rid of it down below!

One Last Thing!

If you love gardening, you should definitely know how to protect yourself and take some precautions, knowing these 5 Invasive shrubs that you should avoid planting in your garden.