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Useful Temperate Plants

Toxicodendron vernix

(L.) Kuntze

Anacardiaceae


There has been considerable uncertainty amongst botanists as to the best way of treating the genus Toxicodendron, with some viewing it as a genus distinct from Rhus, whilst others see insufficient differences and lump the two genera under Rhus. Toxicodendron is treated here as distinct, with two of the major differences from a gardener’s viewpoint being that Toxicodendron has a toxic sap (not toxic in Rhus) and the fruits have a thick, waxy mesocarp.

+ Synonyms

Rhus vernix L.

Common Name: Poison Sumach

No Image.

General Information

Toxicodendron vernix is a deciduous shrub or small tree; it usually grows up to 3 metres tall but can reach 6 metres. The short bole can be 35 - 45cm in diameter, often breaking near the ground to form two or three main stems[
1212
Title
New Trees
Publication
 
Author
Grimshaw J.; Bayton R.; Wilks H.
Publisher
Kew Publishing; London
Year
2009
ISBN
1842461737
Description
Provides comprehensive botanical descriptions and horticultural commentary on over 800 tree species that have been introduced to cultivation in recent decades.
].
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a medicine and source of materials.
Toxicodendron vernix is widespread and while it is possibly declining in parts of its range, it is not thought that any global population decline is likely to meet (or be close to meeting) the threshold for Vulnerable. The plant is classified as 'Least Concern' in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species(2016)[
338
Title
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.iucnredlist.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
A list of plants under threat and facing possible extinction, usually with brief details of the threats and information on habitat.
].

Known Hazards

All parts of plants belonging to the genus Toxicodendron are known to contain resinous phenolic compounds known as urushiols. This is possibly the most toxic member of the genus - direct contacr with the plant, exposure to smoke or fumes from a burning plant or even contact with pets, animals or clothing that have touched the plant can cause severe allergic dermatitis in some individuals. There is usually a latent period of about 12 - 24 hours from the moment of contact, this is followed by a reddening and severe blistering of the skin. Even plant specimens 100 or more years old have been known to cause problems[
274
Title
Illustrated Flora of North Central Texas
Publication
 
Author
Diggs, Jnr. G.M.; Lipscomb. B. L. & O'Kennon. R. J
Website
http://artemis.austincollege.edu/acad/bio/gdiggs/NCTXpdf.htm
Publisher
Botanical Research Institute, Texas.
Year
1999
ISBN
1-889878-01-4
Description
An excellent flora, which is also available on-line.
].
The plant does not cause skin problems with wildlife or livestock - the foliage and fruits are eaten by several other species of animals and birds - though some pets are sensitive to it[
1050
Title
Fire Effects Information System
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.feis-crs.org/feis/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An on-line information site with comprehensive information on over 1,100 species of plant. Mainly developed to supply information on the effects of fire on plants and animals, it also contains a wealth of other information on the plants
].

Botanical References

11
Title
Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement.
Publication
 
Author
Bean. W.
Publisher
Murray
Year
1981
ISBN
-
Description
A classic with a wealth of information on the plants, but poor on pictures.
,
43
Title
Gray's Manual of Botany.Eighth Edition
Publication
 
Author
Fernald. M. L.
Publisher
American Book Co.; New York
Year
1950
ISBN
0442222505
Description
A bit dated but a good and concise flora of the eastern part of N. America.
,
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.

Range

Eastern N. America - Ontario to Quebec, south to Texas and Florida

Habitat

Wooded swamps, often inundated for part of the year[
4
Title
A Modern Herbal.
Publication
 
Author
Grieve.
Publisher
Penguin
Year
1984
ISBN
0-14-046-440-9
Description
Not so modern (1930's?) but lots of information, mainly temperate plants.
,
43
Title
Gray's Manual of Botany.Eighth Edition
Publication
 
Author
Fernald. M. L.
Publisher
American Book Co.; New York
Year
1950
ISBN
0442222505
Description
A bit dated but a good and concise flora of the eastern part of N. America.
,
82
Title
Manual of the Trees of N. America.
Publication
 
Author
Sargent. C. S.
Website
http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/
Publisher
Dover Publications Inc. New York.
Year
1965
ISBN
0-486-20278-X
Description
Two volumes, a comprehensive listing of N. American trees though a bit out of date now. Good details on habitats, some details on plant uses. Not really for the casual reader. It can be downloaded from the internet.
].

Properties

Conservation StatusLeast Concern
Medicinal Rating *  *
Other Uses Rating *  *
HabitDeciduous Shrub
Height3.00 m
PollinatorsBees
Self-fertileNo
Cultivation StatusWild

Cultivation Details

Toxicodendron vernix is a very cold-hardy plant, able to tolerate temperatures down to around -35°c when fully dormant. The young growth in spring, however, is more sensitive and can be damaged by late frosts.
Species in this genus generally succeed in a well-drained fertile or moderately fertile soil in full sun or light shade[
11
Title
Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement.
Publication
 
Author
Bean. W.
Publisher
Murray
Year
1981
ISBN
-
Description
A classic with a wealth of information on the plants, but poor on pictures.
,
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
]. Requires a moist soil[
14
Title
Complete Guide to Herbs.
Publication
 
Author
Holtom. J. and Hylton. W.
Publisher
Rodale Press
Year
1979
ISBN
0-87857-262-7
Description
A good herbal.
].
Plants have brittle branches and these can be broken off in strong winds[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
]. Plants are also susceptible to coral spot fungus[
11
Title
Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement.
Publication
 
Author
Bean. W.
Publisher
Murray
Year
1981
ISBN
-
Description
A classic with a wealth of information on the plants, but poor on pictures.
]. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
].
A dioecious species - both male and female forms must be grown if fruit and seed are required.

Edible Uses

None known

Medicinal

Poison sumach has occasionally been used medicinally, though it is an extremely poisonous plant and great caution should be exercised. Any herbal use should only be undertaken under the supervision of a qualified practitioner. See also the notes above on toxicity.

The plant has been used in the treatment of fevers, ague, ulcerated bladder, asthma and wasting diseases[
257
Title
Native American Ethnobotany
Publication
 
Author
Moerman. D.
Publisher
Timber Press. Oregon.
Year
1998
ISBN
0-88192-453-9
Description
Very comprehensive but terse guide to the native uses of plants. Excellent bibliography, fully referenced to each plant, giving a pathway to further information. Not for the casual reader.
]. The plant has been used as a wash to treat foul ulcers[
257
Title
Native American Ethnobotany
Publication
 
Author
Moerman. D.
Publisher
Timber Press. Oregon.
Year
1998
ISBN
0-88192-453-9
Description
Very comprehensive but terse guide to the native uses of plants. Excellent bibliography, fully referenced to each plant, giving a pathway to further information. Not for the casual reader.
].

Agroforestry Uses:

The flowers are a good source of nectar for bees[
1050
Title
Fire Effects Information System
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.feis-crs.org/feis/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An on-line information site with comprehensive information on over 1,100 species of plant. Mainly developed to supply information on the effects of fire on plants and animals, it also contains a wealth of other information on the plants
].

Other Uses

The leaves are rich in tannin. They can be collected as they fall in the autumn and used as a brown dye or as a mordant[
169
Title
A Weavers Garden
Publication
 
Author
Buchanan. R.
Publisher
McGraw-Hill Contemporary
Year
1987
ISBN
0934026289
Description
Covers all aspects of growing your own clothes, from fibre plants to dyes.
].

An oil is extracted from the seeds[
4
Title
A Modern Herbal.
Publication
 
Author
Grieve.
Publisher
Penguin
Year
1984
ISBN
0-14-046-440-9
Description
Not so modern (1930's?) but lots of information, mainly temperate plants.
]. It attains a tallow-like consistency on standing and is used to make candles. These burn brilliantly, though they emit a pungent smoke[
4
Title
A Modern Herbal.
Publication
 
Author
Grieve.
Publisher
Penguin
Year
1984
ISBN
0-14-046-440-9
Description
Not so modern (1930's?) but lots of information, mainly temperate plants.
].

An indelible black ink can be made from the sap[
226
Title
Identification Guide to the Trees of Canada
Publication
 
Author
Lauriault. J.
Publisher
Fitzhenry and Whiteside, Ontario.
Year
1989
ISBN
0889025649
Description
Very good on identification for non-experts, the book also has a lot of information on plant uses.
].

The sap can be used to make a black varnish that is lustrous and durable[
19
Title
Poisonous Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Stary. F.
Publisher
Hamlyn
Year
1983
ISBN
0-600-35666-3
Description
Not very comprehensive, but easy reading.
,
82
Title
Manual of the Trees of N. America.
Publication
 
Author
Sargent. C. S.
Website
http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/
Publisher
Dover Publications Inc. New York.
Year
1965
ISBN
0-486-20278-X
Description
Two volumes, a comprehensive listing of N. American trees though a bit out of date now. Good details on habitats, some details on plant uses. Not really for the casual reader. It can be downloaded from the internet.
]. Used in woodworking[
338
Title
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.iucnredlist.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
A list of plants under threat and facing possible extinction, usually with brief details of the threats and information on habitat.
]. The final product is toxic[
226
Title
Identification Guide to the Trees of Canada
Publication
 
Author
Lauriault. J.
Publisher
Fitzhenry and Whiteside, Ontario.
Year
1989
ISBN
0889025649
Description
Very good on identification for non-experts, the book also has a lot of information on plant uses.
].

The wood is light, soft, coarse grained[
82
Title
Manual of the Trees of N. America.
Publication
 
Author
Sargent. C. S.
Website
http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/
Publisher
Dover Publications Inc. New York.
Year
1965
ISBN
0-486-20278-X
Description
Two volumes, a comprehensive listing of N. American trees though a bit out of date now. Good details on habitats, some details on plant uses. Not really for the casual reader. It can be downloaded from the internet.
]. It weighs 27lb per cubic foot[
235
Title
An Illustrated Flora of the Northern United States and Canada
Publication
 
Author
Britton. N. L. Brown. A.
Publisher
Dover Publications. New York.
Year
1970
ISBN
0-486-22642-5
Description
Reprint of a 1913 Flora, but still a very useful book.
].

Propagation

Seed - best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe. Pre-soak the seed for 24 hours in hot water (starting at a temperature of 80 - 90c and allowing it to cool) prior to sowing in order to leach out any germination inhibitors[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
]. The stored seed also needs hot water treatment and can be sown in early spring in a cold frame[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
]. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts.
Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 10cm with a heel, mid summer in a frame[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
].
Root cuttings 4cm long taken in December and potted up vertically in a greenhouse. Good percentage[
78
Title
Propagation of Trees, Shrubs and Conifers.
Publication
 
Author
Sheat. W. G.
Publisher
MacMillan and Co
Year
1948
ISBN
-
Description
A bit dated but a good book on propagation techniques with specific details for a wide range of plants.
,
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
].
Suckers in late autumn to winter[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
].
Cite as: Temperate Plants Database, Ken Fern. temperate.theferns.info. 2019-07-16. <temperate.theferns.info/plant/Toxicodendron+vernix>

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