Dogwood Poison Sumac Poison Elder
=Habitat and Range.=--Low grounds and swamps; occasional on the moist
slopes of hills.
Infrequent in Ontario.
Maine,--local and apparently restricted to the southwestern sections; as
far north as Chesterville (Franklin county); Vermont,--infrequent;
common throughout the other New England states, especially near the
South to northern Florida; west to Minnesota and Louisiana.
=Habit.=--- A handsome shrub or small tree, 5-20 feet high; trunk
sometimes 8-10 inches in diameter; broad-topped in the open along the
edge of swamps; conspicuous in autumn by its richly colored foliage and
diffusely panicled, pale, yellowish-white fruit.
=Bark.=--Trunk and branches mottled gray, roughish with round spots;
branchlets light brown; season's shoots reddish at first, turning later
to gray, thickly beset with rough yellowish warts; leaf-scars prominent,
=Buds and Leaves.=--Buds small, roundish. Leaves pinnately compound,
alternate; rachis abruptly widened at base; leaflets 5-13, opposite,
short-stalked except the odd one, 2-3 inches long, 1-2 inches wide,
smooth, light green and mostly glossy when young, becoming dark green
and often dull, obovate to oval or ovate; entire, often wavy-margined;
apex acute, acuminate, or obtuse; base mostly obtuse or rounded; veins
prominent, often red; stipules none.
=Inflorescence.=--Early in July. Near the tips of the branches, in
loose, axillary clusters of small greenish flowers; sterile, fertile,
and perfect flowers on the same tree, or occasionally sterile and
fertile on separate trees; calyx deeply 5-parted, divisions ovate,
acute; petals 5, oblong; stamens 5, exserted in the sterile flowers;
ovary globose, styles 3.
=Fruit.=--Drupes about as large as peas, smooth, more or less glossy,
whitish; stone ridged; strongly resembling the fruit of R.
Toxicodendron (poison ivy).
=Horticultural Value.=--No large shrub or small tree, so attractive as
this, does so well in wet ground; it grows also in any good soil, but it
is seldom advisable to use it, on account of its noxious qualities. It
can be obtained only from collectors of native plants.
=Note.=--This sumac has the reputation of being the most poisonous of
New England plants. The treacherous beauty of its autumn leaves is a
source of grief to collectors. Many are seriously affected, without
actual contact, by the exhalation of vapor from the leaves, by grains of
pollen floating in the air, and even by the smoke of the burning wood.
It is easily distinguished from the other sumacs. The leaflets are not
toothed like those of R. typhina (staghorn sumac) and R. glabra
(smooth sumac); it is not pubescent like R. typhina and R. copallina
(dwarf sumac); the rachis of the compound leaf is not wing-margined as
in R. copallina; the panicles of flower and fruit are not upright and
compact, but drooping and spreading; the fruit is not red-dotted with
dense crimson hairs, but is smooth and whitish. Unlike the other sumacs,
it grows for the most part in lowlands and swamps.
In the vicinity of Southington, southern Connecticut, Rhus copallina
is occasionally found with a trunk 5 or 6 inches in diameter (C. H.
1. Winter buds.
2. Branch with sterile flowers.
3. Sterile flower.
4. Branch with fertile flowers.
5. Fertile flower.
6. Fruiting branch.
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