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Secret #8

Poison Sumac

Poison Sumac is a highly toxic plant that causes skin rashes and blisters. The rashes can become infected as you scratch. The entire plant is toxic and spreads by the oils within it’s leaves and stems. A high fever may develop in a more sensitive induvial. Those with allergies may react faster and with more urgent reactions.

It is vital to remove the oils from your skin and keep it from spreading. Dont forget to use soap and cool water and really get under your fingernails. If the oil is still there, when you scratch, you are spreading! Clean the clothing you were wearing right away, washing several times in cold water to insure the oils are removed.

Some of the common methods to use are calamine lotion, hydrocortisone creams, local and oral anesthetics.

Even if you burn it in the attempt to get rid of the plant, the oils can be inhaled, leading to a dangerous lung irritation with symptoms of coughing, difficulty breathing and wheezing. It can be fatal.

The big problem with Sumac is it is found in swamps, wetlands, pinewoods and hardwood forest from zones 3-8. It is abundant along the Mississippi River and swampy areas of the south east.

The plant itself is beautiful. In the fall it is bright red and has red stems. In the summer it looks lush and lacy with it’s unique leaf structure. There is a non-toxic variety that is used in the landscape, but take care to be sure to buy the right kind!


I live in a wonderful small town on the coast of Florida and have plenty of access to the beaches and Indian River. I am a proud Christian. I have great son & I married my best friend over 35 years ago. We have 2 cats. I have been in the landscape business for over 30 years and own a small Gardening Service called Botanical Concepts, providing design, installation and maintenance service for niche gardens. I am the author of the fictional cozy mysteries and a writing blog ( I love to read, walk, garden, watch good movies, enjoy nature and love chocolate and a good cup of coffee!! Did I say I like chocolate?

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