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Poison sumac, Rhus vernix
Poison sumac can be found in southern Ontario in wet woods and along edges of swamps and lakes. The entire plant is poisonous. Both the foliage in the summer and the bare twigs in the winter can cause severe dermatitis. Take all precautions to avoid this plant from touching your hands and face. Any area of skin that has come in contact with this plant should be thoroughly washed with soap and water. Medical advice is also suggested.
This coarse shrub or small tree can stand about 5-23 ft. high and often branches at the base. The bark is brown to grey and smooth. The branches are slightly rough with small, wart-like surface glades and show prominent leaf scars. The leaves are alternate on the branches. Each leaf is pinnately compound with 3-6 pairs of leaflets that are nearly opposite of each other with one terminal leaflet at the tip. The leaflet is 1 1/2 - 4 inches long and 1/2 to 2/3 as wide, being dark green above and light green below. It flowers in July producing an off white pendulous panicle-like cluster coming from the leaf axils followed by whitish berries about 4-5 mm long.
The Staghorn sumac, Rhus typhina is very common in southern Ontario as well with very similar characteristics; however its fruit is red with its leaves turning a vivid red in the fall and is not poisonous.