The plants are easy to identify and most commonly seen along fence rows, open and cut-over forest lands, stream banks, and up tree trunks. In the fall, this species' leaves turn brilliant red and become a tempting target to touch. Many people who are unfamiliar with the plant gather the colorful leaves in the fall and many times suffer acute allergic reactions.
At times, hospitalization may be required to deal with the problem.
Both poison oak and poison ivy are readily identified by their leaves. Shiny when young, the leaves grow in groups of three. Leaflets range from a half-inch to two inches long. Flowers are greenish white, about one-quarter of an inch across and are borne in clusters on a slender stem. The fruits are white, berry-like, glossy and dry when ripe, about one-sixth of an inch in diameter in poison ivy and a little larger in poison oak.
Poison sumac is a little different in that it resembles non-poison sumacs in bark and leaves and lives in a similar habitat. The leaves are approximately twelve inches long with 7 to 13 leaflets on a long red petiole. The fruit is also berry-like but smooth.
All parts of these plants except the pollen are poisonous year round. The best way to prevent problems with Rhus is to avoid contact with the plant.