Lacquer trees (Rhus verniciflua) are cultivated for their sap, which is used to make a durable coating called lacquer. The sap is so poisonous even its vapours can cause extreme rashes, so here we have planted a close, but safe relative. Lacquer can be polished to a high gloss, and the sap can be coloured by adding the mineral cinnabar or carbon black to make red and black.
Lacquer is used to coat a variety of objects. In a process that can take at least a year, craft specialists may apply hundreds of layers of lacquer to an object, to create depth and beauty. The built-up surface can be carved with designs, or inlaid with mother-of-pearl, or incised and filled with gold powder.
The seeds and leaves are used in Chinese medicine to treat internal parasites and to stop bleeding.
Right: The trunk of this lacquer tree is slashed to collect sap.