Herb latin name: Rhus ambigua

Synonyms: Rhus orientalis, Rhus toxicodendron hispida, Toxicodendron orientale

Family: Anacardiaceae (Cashew Family, Sumac Family)

Description of the plant:


Habitat of Rhus ambigua:

Mountainous woods all over Japan.

Other uses of the herb:

The leaves are rich in tannin. They can be collected as they fall in the autumn and used as a brown dye or as a mordant. An oil is extracted from the seeds. It attains a tallow-like consistency on standing and is used to make candles. These burn brilliantly, though they emit a pungent smoke. A natural lacquer is obtained by tapping the stem.

Propagation of Rhus ambigua:

Seed - best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe. Pre-soak the seed for 24 hours in hot water (starting at a temperature of 80 - 90c and allowing it to cool) prior to sowing in order to leach out any germination inhibitors. The stored seed also needs hot water treatment and can be sown in early spring in a cold frame. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 10cm with a heel, July/August in a frame. Root cuttings 4cm long taken in December and potted up vertically in a greenhouse. Good percentage. Suckers in late autumn to winter.

Cultivation of the herb:

Mountainous woods all over Japan.

Medicinal use of Rhus ambigua:

None known

Known hazards of Rhus ambigua:

This plant contains toxic substances that can cause severe irritation to some people. All parts of the plant contain resinous phenolic compounds known as urushiols. Direct contacr with the plant, exposure to smoke or fumes from a burning plant or even contact with pets or animals that have touched the plant can cause severe allergic dermatitis in some individuals. There is usually a latent period of about 12 - 24 hours from the moment of contact, this is followed by a reddening and severe blistering of the skin. Even plant specimens 100 or more years old can cause problems.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.