Toxicodendron pubescens

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Toxicodendron pubescens
Toxicodendron pubescens FI.jpg
Photo by David J. Moorhead, University of Georgia, hosted at
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants
Class: Magnoliopsida - Dicots
Order: Sapindales
Family: Anacardiaceae
Genus: Toxicodendron
Species: T. pubescens
Binomial name
Toxicodendron pubescens
Natural range of Toxicodendron pubescens from USDA NRCS Plants Database.

Common Name(s): poison oak[1], Atlantic poison oak[2]

Taxonomic Notes

Synonym(s): Rhus toxicodendron; T. toxicodendron (Linnaeus) Britton; T. toxicarium Gillis; T. quercifolium (Michaux) Greene.[3]


T. pubescens is a dioecious perennial that grows as a forb/herb, shrub, or subshrub.[2] Leaves are alternate, trifoliate and lobed. It can grow up to 10 ft (3 m) in height but is more commonly 2-4 ft (0.6-1.2 m).[4]


Toxicodendron pubescens can be found from Long Island, NY south to north Florida, west to eastern Texas and inland to West Virginia, Tennessee, Missouri, and Kansas.[1]



T. pubescens has been found in turkey oak-longleaf pine communities, oak-hickory forests, shortleaf pine woodlands, sandstone outcrops, dolomite glades, rocky post oak woodlands, and slash pine sand ridges.[5][6] It is also found in disturbed areas including burned pine forests, roadsides, and powerline corridors.[5][6][7] Associated species: Quercus prinus-carya pallida, Pinus sp., Trifolium sp., Bryza sp., Ranunculus sp., Magnolia sp., Liquidambar sp., Quercus sp., Acer sp., Aster sp., Digitaria sp., Coreopsis sp., and Prunella sp., and Pinus palustris.[8][9]

This species is very common in sandhill and upland pine communities but can also be found in dry woodlands and dry rock outcrops in the Piedmont and mountains.[1] T. pubescens has shown regrowth in reestablished longleaf pine woodlands that were disturbed by agriculture in South Carolina, making it a possible indicator species for post-agricultural woodlands.[10][11] T. pubescens reduced its frequency and density in response to soil disturbance by roller chopping in northwest Florida sandhills.[12]

Toxicodendron pubescens is an indicator species for the Clayhill Longleaf Woodlands community type as described in Carr et al. (2010).[13]


Toxicodendron pubescens has been observed to flower from March through May and fruits from August through October.[1][4][14] Flowers are yellow and inconspicuous. Fruits are greenish white and 0.25 in (6.4 mm) in diameter.[4]

Seed dispersal

This species is thought to be dispersed by consumption by vertebrates.[15]

Fire ecology

A study in southern Alabama showed burns in the winter and spring produced a greater percent occurance of T. pubescens. Burns in the summer reduced the percent occurence.[16] However, it is common in research plots in native upland longleaf pine communities burned at 2-5 year intervals in May-July.[17] Populations of Toxicodendron pubescens have been known to persist through repeated annual burns.[18][19]

Herbivory and toxicology

T. pubescens consists of 10-25% of the diet of large mammals and 2-5% of the diet of small mammals and terrestrial birds.[2]

Conservation, cultivation, and restoration

Cultural use

The resin of Toxicodendron pubescens contains a harmful skin irritant called urushiol[20] that should be avoided by all as the degree to which the irritation occurs varies between the individuals exposed.[21] All parts of this species may contain this irritant.[22][23] Symptoms of exposure generally include a rash, swelling, and blisters and may present immediately or be delayed for up to a few days.[24] Humans are studying the homeopathic abilities of Toxicodendron pubescens dilutions in anti-arthritic and anti-inflamation treatments.[25]

Photo Gallery

References and notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Weakley A. S.(2015). Flora of the Southern and Mid-Atlantic States. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Herbarium.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 USDA, NRCS. (2016). The PLANTS Database (, 21 December 2017). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.
  3. Weakley, A.S. 2015. Flora of the southern and mid-atlantic states. Working Draf of 21 May 2015. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Plant database: Toxicodendron pubescens. (21 December 2017).Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. URL:
  5. 5.0 5.1 Florida State University Herbarium Database. URL: Last accessed: June 2021. Collectors: Robert K. Godfrey, Gary R. Knight, and Cecil R Slaughter. States and counties: Florida: Clay, Jackson, and Suwannee.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission Herbarium accessed using Southeastern Regional Network of Expertise and Collections (SERNEC) data portal. URL: Last accessed: June 2021. Collectors: Travis Marsico, Frank McAllister, Tim E. Smith, and Theo Witsell. States and Counties: Arkansas: Montgomery, Ozark, Pulaski, and Saline. Missouri: Ozark.
  7. Delaware State University, Claude E. Phillips Herbarium accessed using Southeastern Regional Network of Expertise and Collections (SERNEC) data portal. URL: Last accessed: June 2021. Collectors: William A. McAvoy. States and Counties: Maryland: Dorchester.
  8. Carnegie Museum of Natural History Herbarium accessed using Southeastern Regional Network of Expertise and Collections (SERNEC) data portal. URL: Last accessed: June 2021. Collectors: Boufford, D.E. States and Counties: Georgia: Stephens. North Carolina: Moore.
  9. Louisiana State University, Shirley C. Tucker Herbarium accessed using Southeastern Regional Network of Expertise and Collections (SERNEC) data portal. URL: Last accessed: June 2021. Collectors: Danielle R. Mack. States and Counties: Danielle R. Mack. Mississippi: Stone.
  10. Brudvig, L.A., E Grman, C.W. Habeck, and J.A. Ledvina. (2013). Strong legacy of agricultural land use on soils and understory plant communities in longleaf pine woodlands. Forest Ecology and Management 310: 944-955.
  11. Brudvig, L.A., J.L. Orrock, E.I. Damschen, C.D. Collins, P.G. Hahn, W.B. Mattingly, J.W. Veldman, and J.L. Walker. (2014). Land-Use History and Contemporary Management Inform an Ecological Reference Model for Longleaf Pine Woodland Understory Plant Communities. PLoS ONE 9(1): e86604.
  12. Hebb, E.A. (1971). Site Preparation Decreases Game Food Plants in Florida Sandhills. The Journal of Wildlife Management 35(1):155-162.
  13. Carr, S.C., K.M. Robertson, and R.K. Peet. 2010. A vegetation classification of fire-dependent pinelands of Florida. Castanea 75:153-189.
  14. Nelson, G. PanFlora: Plant data for the eastern United States with emphasis on the Southeastern Coastal Plains, Florida, and the Florida Panhandle. Accessed: 19 MAY 2021
  15. Kirkman, L. Katherine. Unpublished database of seed dispersal mode of plants found in Coastal Plain longleaf pine-grasslands of the Jones Ecological Research Center, Georgia.
  16. Kush J. S., Meldahl R. S., and Boyer W. D. (2000). Understory plant community response to season of burn in natural longleaf pine forests. in Moser W. K and Moser C. F. (eds). Fire and forest ecology innovative silviculture and vegetation management. Tall Timbers Fire Ecology Conference Proceedings 2:32-39 Tall Timbers Research Station, Tallahassee, FL.
  17. Robertson, K. 2017. Pebble Hill Fire Plots long-term research project, unpublished data. Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy, Tallahassee, Florida.
  18. Robertson, K.M. Unpublished data collected from Pebble Hill Fire Plots, Pebble Hill Plantation, Thomasville, Georgia.
  19. Platt, W.J., R. Carter, G. Nelson, W. Baker, S. Hermann, J. Kane, L. Anderson, M. Smith, K. Robertson. 2021. Unpublished species list of Wade Tract old-growth longleaf pine savanna, Thomasville, Georgia.
  20. Mueschner, W.C. 1957. Poisonous Plants of the United States. The Macmillan Company, New York.
  21. Mueschner, W.C. 1957. Poisonous Plants of the United States. The Macmillan Company, New York.
  22. Hardin, J.W. 1961. Poisonous Plants of North Carolina. North Carolina State College, Raleigh, North Carolina.
  23. Burrows, G.E., Tyrl, R.J. 2001. Toxic Plants of North America. Iowa State Press.
  24. Hardin, J.W., Arena, J.M. 1969. Human Poisoning from Native and Cultivated Plants. Duke University Press, Durham, North Carolina.
  25. Patil C. R., Rambhade A. D., Jadhav R. B., Patil K. R., Dubey V. K., Sonara B. M., and Toshniwal S. S. (2011). Modulation of arthritis in rats by Toxicodendron pubescens and its homeopathic dilutions. Homeopathy 100(3):131-137.