Each spring Rhus
produces clusters of very small yellowish flowers which then form tawny coloured
berries between May and September. Birds like to eat the berries and help to
spread the seed into nearby gardens and bushland.
Rhus is a shrub or
small tree most noticeable in late summer and autumn when its foliage turns
brilliant yellow, orange and red. Often the small saplings are not noticed in
among shrubs until they turn red, so autumn is the best time to check your
garden. The rest of the year the leaves are dark green above and a lighter grey
green on the underside.
The leaves are up to twenty five centimetres
long and are divided into seven to fifteen leaflets, each four to ten
centimetres long. Rhus can be confused with Chinese Pistacio (Pistacia
chinensis) and the native Red Cedar (Toona cilata). However, neither of these
plants have the single leaflet at the end of the row of opposite leaflets and
they don’t turn as intensely red in autumn as Rhus.
Control & Removal Methods
Skin contact with any part of this weed can cause severe
dermatitis including swelling, especially of the neck and face. Contact with the
sap is particularly dangerous. If you are removing Rhus, remember to handle with
caution. Wear protective clothing such as long trousers and long sleeved shirt
and gloves. Small seedlings can be gently pulled out by hand if care is taken
not to snap the stem or tap root. Alternatively, the main root system can be dug
The larger plants can be killed by cutting the stem or trunk close
to the ground using a pair of loppers or a saw and then immediately painting the
cut section with glyphosate herbicide. However, plants which require poisoning
need to be treated in spring or summer otherwise the herbicide will not work
Dead segments of Rhus can also cause allergic reactions. You
can use the Council Green Waste Collection to dispose of Rhus by placing the
plant pieces in a hessian bag. Do not attempt to burn the plant as inhalation of
the smoke can be dangerous.