Sumac firewood

by Jim
(Tucson)

Is it safe to burn the red sumac as firewood ? After all Socrates met his match after drinking it's leaves in a tea. Thank you


Answer

Jim,

The only sumac that isn't safe for burning or touching is poison sumac (Rhus vernix). Poison sumac contains the oil urushiol. In addition to the urushiol being transferred to the skin by touching the shrub, burning it releases the allergen into the air and can cause severe reactions.

All that being said, red sumac (Rhus glabra) is safe to use as firewood. However, I would be leary as it does look similar to poison sumac. Poison sumac doesn't normally grow in Arizona, but if you are not certain about it's identification, I would certainly check with someone locally or use a shrub identification book to confirm the tree's species.

If I'm not mistaken, Socrates met his match with poison hemlock which is a very toxic plant when ingested.

Hope this helps!

-Firewood Matt

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