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How To Control Poison Sumacpoison sumac

Having poison sumac on your lawn can be irritating, literally. Outside of being an eyesore in your yard wherever they are  growing, poison sumac that comes in contact with your skin can cause a very irritating rash wherever the leaves touched that can deliver a painful burning sensation that will require medical attention to treat. Having these types of weeds growing your lawn can be worrisome when you’re gardening or especially if you have children or pets who play and roll around on your lawn.

Poison sumac can either be a  large shrub or small tree which can reach mature heights of up to 20 feet, but usually tops out at 5 or 6 feet. The stems are smooth and red and the leaves are arranged in 7 to 13 pairs of glossy green leaflets, often with pale green undersides and rounded edges. Poison sumac trees like to grow wet swampy areas or along shorelines. The plant is most found most commonly around the Great Lakes and coastal plains, but they have also reached areas far West past Texas.

You may be wondering, “Why does poison sumac irritate the skin so much?” That’s because poison sumac (along with similar shrubs like poison oak and poison ivy) emits an oil called an oil called urushiol, which is a strong allergen. Around 60-90% of people have an allergic reaction to the oil which consists of development of a rash with oozing blisters.

If there’s poison sumac around on your property, we at Solutions Pest & Lawn have a way for you to get rid of it through our high-quality herbicides and we can help properly guide you through the eradication process with our free expert advice.

Browse our poison sumac products below. We are available via live chat, email or phone if you ever have any questions or concerns or would like more detailed how-to advice.

How To Get Rid of Poison Sumac: 4 Step Solution

Removing an outbreak of poison sumac on your lawn doesn’t have to be difficult. By having the proper approach and being equipped with the right products, you can wipe out poison sumac from your yard quickly and conveniently. However, it should be noted that it’s not always the product that bring you the most success, but the proper usage of the product. That is why we have laid out four easy steps to follow when addressing poison sumac.

Step 1: Identification - First of all, be sure that the plant that you are dealing with on your lawn is in fact, poison sumac. There may be no need to get rid of a plant which looks similar to poison sumac but isn’t, like for instance, staghorn sumac. There are some outstanding characteristics of poison sumac that can help you to correctly ID the plant.

For instance, poison sumac can grow quite tall with some shrubs measuring as much as 30 ft long in height. It has pinnate leave which contain between 7 to 13 oval shaped to oblong leaflets, each of which is 2 to 4 inches long.  These leaves taper to a sharp point with a hairless underside 

Poison sumac stems along the leaflets are red and the leaves can have a reddish hue to them, particularly at the top of the plant. New bark for a poison sumac tree is lightish gray, and as the bark ages, it becomes darker.

Poison sumac has greenish flowers which grow in loose panicles and bare a creamy white fruit that's part of a cluster. The dead giveaway that it's poison sumac however, is when touched, poison sumac will cause a painfully itchy allergic reaction to the skin due to the oil resin called urushiol.


If you are not totally sure, you can always shoot us an email at identification@solutionsstores.com containing a photo of the plant in question and we will ID it properly for you as well as provide control recommendations.

Step 2: Inspection - After you have identified and are certain that you have poison sumac, you will need to inspect the area to see just how big of an outbreak you have of this plant.  Be sure that you are first properly geared up for the occasion. Be sure to wear long pants, long sleeves, gloves, and boots, covering as much skin as possible because you not only do not want poison ivy on your skin, you don’t want to accidentally get chemicals on you either.


It is found mainly in the eastern United States, growing in peat bogs and swamps. This phase of the control program will help you to determine how much product you will need to conduct a successful treatment of the itch-inducing weed.


Step 3: Control - Before you proceed with control methods of eliminating poison sumac, be sure that you are first properly geared up for the occasion.We recommend that you wear long pants, long sleeves, gloves, and boots, covering as much skin as possible because you not only do not want poison sumac on your skin, you don’t want to accidentally get chemicals on you either.

The best method of eliminating poison sumac is through the use of chemical herbicides. Use a non-selective herbicide like glyphosate which will easily kill off this plant. You can cut the plant back to a foot or so above ground level and apply Glyphosate 4 Plus Weed Killer Concentrate immediately. Poison sumac, like the other plants in this family, are persistent, so repeated applications may be necessary to completely kill the plant. Afterward wash all your clothing and equipment thoroughly to remove traces of the sumac oil.

Step 4: Prevention - Closely monitor your yard to check if poison sumac returns. This should especially be done in the spring and summer since that is when poison sumac is actively growing. If patches begin to pop up, spray them with herbicides or yank them out. Again be careful and use gloves and thoroughly wash the gloves afterward.


Learn More About Poison Sumac

You've heard the saying, "leaves of three, let them be". But that is the saying for poison ivy, a vigorous, low-growing shrub that can grow on many different landscape types and be an allergic rash waiting to happen for most people who come into contact with it. However, some people are less able to identify another common rash inducing plant known as poison sumac.


Poison sumac grows as a shrub or small tree and is found mostly on the eastern part of the United States--from Maine all the way down to Florida, west To Texas, and north up to Minnesota. Poison sumac thrives in conditions where the soil is moist and is most commonly prevalent in swamps, marshes and along river and pond shorelines. 

Poison sumac is poisonous all year round and at every phase of growth. All parts of the plant aside from the pollen contains urushiol, a toxin that is also found in poison oak and poison ivy. This toxin causes irritation and blistering of the skin. Urishiol can easily come off of the plant and come into contact with skin either by touching the plant or indirectly touching things which has come into contact with poison sumac (clothing, tools, animals, firewood).


How Can I identify Poison Sumac?

Poison sumac leaves are arranged in groups of 7 to 13 oval leaflets with smooth edges. The leaf stems are always red. The bark is gray and smooth. Mature plants range between 5 to 6 feet on average but can reach as high as 25 feet tall. Poison sumac has small yellowish green flowers which produce graywish white colored berries which arranged in slender drooping clusters where the leaf stems meet with the branches.

There are types of sumac that look similar to poison sumac but are actually harmless. These varieties are known as smooth sumac, staghorn sumac and dwarf sumac. These species are found in drier conditions than where poison sumac likes to grow which is in more swampy wet soils. All three of these harmless species bear red fruits that together form a unique terminal seed head. 


Why You Should Avoid Coming In Contact With Poison Sumac 

All parts of the poison sumac plant contain a toxic oily resin called urushiol. This oil is present all year round and can cause some really bad allergic reactions to the skin. Depending on the person and how allergic they are, the urushiol can cause dermatitis with symptoms like itchiness, swelling, inflammation and the formation of blisters usually appearing within 24 hours of contact with the sap.


What Do I Do If My Skin Come in Contact With Poison Sumac?

You must act quickly if you've come in contact with poison sumac because the urushiol will begin to penetrate the skin quickly. Wash the area thoroughly within 5-10 minutes of contact could reduce the likelihood or the severity of a rash. Wash with soap and cold water followed with rubbing alcohol or a solution of water and alcohol in equal proportions to kill the urushiol that hasn't been absorbed into the skin. 

Urushiol can remain active on contaminated clothing, bedding, tools and other surfaces for years so make sure to wash everything you suspect has come in contact with the oil.


Non Chemical Approach to Eliminating Poison Sumac

If you have a small outbreak of poison sumac, you can use a nonchemical approach to getting rid of it. Young shoots of sumac can be repeatedly cut back or mowed down until the energy stored in the roots is exhausted and the plants will choke out and die. You could also try to dig up the roots and pull the plants out of the soil. For the best success, you will have to remove the entire root, even a small piece left behind and before you know it, the sumac will be growing again. 

Dispose of the poison sumac preferably wrapped in a garbage bag and toss it out so it won't come in contact with people or animals. We want to stress, DO NOT BURN the poison sumac with fire. When a poison sumac plant is burned, the urushiol goes into the aire and this can get into your lungs or eyes and cause a severe allergic reaction.

Chemical Approach to Eliminating Poison Sumac

Herbicide products which contain the active ingredient of glyphosate or triclopyr are the two most effective chemicals for poison sumac control around a property. Sprays must come into contact with the leaves to be effective. However, care must be exercised when using these herbicides since most shrubs, garden plants and other desired plants which come in contact with the herbicide will be killed. Herbicides may not prove total control from just a single treatment so you may need to do follow-up applications until the poison sumac is completely gone.


Additional Poison Sumac Resources

How to Kill Poison Sumac Naturally | Home Guides | SF Gate


Sumac biology and control - Pleasant Valley Conservancy


Control the Plant | The Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, Poison Sumac Site

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