Poison sumac trees?

Asked June 6, 2015, 4:08 PM EDT

Hi there. A relative told us some trees growing in our back yard (we just moved to our house about 1.5 years ago) are poison sumac. Are you able to tell from the attached photo (three tall, skinny trees) whether they are in fact poison sumac? If so, what would you recommend to get rid of them? We have small children and the tree foliage is encroaching over the fence into our yard. Thank you!

Carroll County Maryland

3 Responses

Many people call all sumac shrubs/trees 'poison' sumac. They are not poisonous or dangerous for your family. They are native plants with high wildlife value for songbirds, small mammals, and pollinators like butterflies. (It also has beautiful scarlet red fall color)
There is a true poison sumac (same family), but it is rare and mainly occurs in river swamps of the Eastern Shore.
That said, there is an invasive plant which looks very similar called Tree of Heaven. The easiest way to know if it is this undesirable plant is to pull a leaf, crush it and smell it. If it smells like rotten peanut butter, it's Tree of Heaven which spreads aggressively.

That is a relief! Thank you very much! We'll try to find out if we're dealing with Tree of Heaven. Would we have already noticed an odor from the trees if it were this species? Thanks again for your help! Sara

No, the lovely smell only comes upon rubbing the leaf.