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By Arthur Cronquist

-- "Natural History"

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The juice and pulp of the fruit are safe, but biting into the peel can lead to lesions on the lips and mouth, and the clear sap causes allergic contact dermatitis in those who climb or cut the tree. According to Morton (1982), an individual may pick, peel, and eat the fruit for years and then one day be scratched accidentally by a mango branch and thereafter be unable to touch the fruit unless someone else peels it first. The fruit also must be washed well to remove any surface sap, and even the knife used to peel it should be washed before cutting the rest of the fruit.

However, the subspecies radicans is joined by eight other distinct subspecies (fig. 2), and photos of the six that are native to the United States are displayed by Guin and Beaman (1986). T. radicans negundo is the common poison ivy of our Midwest, its range angling southwest from the Great Lakes across Iowa, Nebraska, and Kansas into Arkansas; the plants were first reported in 1853 from ‘‘Indian Territory’’ (Oklahoma). 2 Leaf form and geographic distribution: North American Toxicodendron radicans subspecies.

The scientific name originated before 1700, considerably predating Linnaeus’ 1753 classification of the plants into the genus Rhus, but it apparently fell out of botanical favor for centuries and was not reinstated until the 1930s. The structural differences between Toxicodendron and present-day Rhus seem clear enough. Among other traits, flower stalks (peduncles) of the former are axillary (in the axil or angle formed by leaf and stem), whereas those of the latter are terminal (occur at the end of the branch).

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