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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Monday - May 23, 2005

From: Woodstock, CT
Region: Northeast
Topic: Poisonous Plants
Title: Smarty Plants on staghorn sumac
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I currently have staghorn sumac in my yard located in Woodstock, Connecticut. it appears to be of the Rhus typhina species. i am removing these from my yard using a chainsaw and creating a pile of them in order to burn. Is it safe to burn them?

ANSWER:

If they are truly Stag-horn Sumac (Rhus hirta, formerly Rhus typhina) it should be just fine to burn them. However, if you have Poison Sumac (Toxicodendron vernix, formerly Rhus vernix), it would not be a good idea to burn them. This species causes severe skin irritation because it contains urushiol, the same chemical in poison oak and ivy. The smoke and ash from the burning plants would carry the urushiol. You can read a description of Poison Sumac on the Poisonous Plants of South Carolina database. On the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada web page there is a description of how to tell poison sumac from the other sumacs.
 

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