Poison sumac is a plant or small plant, being raised to nearly 30 ft (9 m) high. Each pinnate foliage has 7–13 leaves, each of which is 2–4 inches wide (5–10 cm) and long. These are oval-to-oblong; acuminate (tapering to a sharp point); cuneate (wedge-shaped) at the base; undulate (wavy-edged); with a bottom that is glabrous (hairless) or a little bit pubescent (down-like hair) below. The branches around the leaves are red and the results can have a red shade to them, particularly at the top of the plant. New debris for a poison sumac plant is lightest grayish, and as the debris ages, it becomes deeper. Its blossoms are greenish, increasing in reduce axillaries panicles (clusters) 3–8 inches wide (8–20 cm) lengthy.
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The vegetables and fruits are subglobose (not quite spherical), greyish, compressed, and about 0.2 inches wide (0.5 cm) across. Poison sumac berries are frothy white and part of a group. Typically, they are around 4 to 5 millimeters (0.16 to 0.20 inches) in size. The berries of the poison sumac contain urushiol, an oil that causes a sensitive allergy upon contact with skin. This is also known as thunder wood, particularly where it only happens in the southeast United States. All parts of the plant contain a material called urushiol that causes skin and mucous tissue layer discomfort to humans.