New Latin, from Metopium, genus of trees including the black poison; from Latin, juice from a species of Ferula; from Greek metōpion, diminutive of metōpon, a species of Ferula; probably from metōpon, “forehead”
Poisonwood is native to the Caribbean region, including southern Florida, in shrublands and pine
woodlands. It is related to
poison oak, poison ivy, and poison sumac, and produces the same irritant, urushiol, which causes a maddening itchy,
Plants: Poisonwood ranges from a low
shrub to a tree up to 49' (15 m) high and 16" (40 cm) in diameter. Bark is orange
and brown, peeling in irregular plates.
Leaves: Leathery, alternate, odd pinnate in groups of
5-7, clustering at the tips of
branches. Each leaf is ovate, up to 6-10" (15-25 cm) long × 2-3" (5-7.6 cm) wide, its margins
slightly thickened. Spots of black resin appear irregularly. Leaf
stems are smooth or with fine hairs, and swollen at the base.
Fruits: Berries (drupes) become orange-yellow when they ripen. Berries are roughly oval, about ⅜" (1 cm) in
Edibility: Poisonous . Skin contact with any part of the
tree produces severe irritation like that of poison ivy. Eating any part, or contact with smoke
produced from its burning, is extremely dangerous. (Technically, not everyone is allergic.)
Many birds and other animals can consume parts of the plant with no ill effects.