I've just recently purchased a house that was vacant for a couple years. What...

Asked January 6, 2014, 11:11 PM EST

I've just recently purchased a house that was vacant for a couple years. What used to be the garden is now overgrown with poison sumac trees. They have long leaves and tons of red berries on them. From what I read online, it suggests that the root system must be killed to stop the plants. The websites also suggest I contact my local extension service to find an acceptable herbicide to treat the area with. It is a large area about 20 feet wide and 50 feet long. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance,

Frederick County Maryland

1 Response

The best method to control unwanted plants relies heavily on a correct identification of the plant.
What you have there is definitely not poison sumac, which doesn't generally grow in Frederick County (it is a swamp plant found on the Eastern shore) and does not have red berries, but fruits that are white or pale yellow.
It is possibly the harmless and beneficial native sumac, Rhus glabra (smooth sumac) or Rhus hirta, also called staghorn sumac. Both of these plants bear red berries which are of high wildlife value, providing winter food for songbirds and small mammals. They also have spectacular fall color. Does it have leaves right now? It could be something else entirely.
Could you possibly take a digital photo and attach it to this response? One that shows the berries and woody stems would help, even better would be one with leaves if you have one.
The other issue which needs clarification is what type of garden is being invaded by these plants. Is it an area like your foundation around the house or is an area you want to use for a vegetable garden? This answer helps to decide which chemical controls would be appropriate.