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Poison ivy blooms: Poison Ivy Pictures: How to Identify It

Poison Ivy Pictures: How to Identify It

The easiest ways to tell when you’ve encountered this plant


David Beaulieu

David Beaulieu

David Beaulieu is a landscaping expert and plant photographer, with 20 years of experience.

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Updated on 10/17/22

Reviewed by

Kathleen Miller

Reviewed by
Kathleen Miller

Kathleen Miller is a highly-regarded Master Gardener and horticulturist with over 30 years of experience in organic gardening, farming, and landscape design. She founded Gaia’s Farm and Gardens, a working sustainable permaculture farm, and writes for Gaia Grows, a local newspaper column.

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The Spruce / David Beaulieu

Poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) is a noxious weed commonly found in home landscapes, along roadsides, in forests, and even in urban areas in North America. Its toxicity is based on an active irritant called urushiol, an oily resin in all plants’ parts. Pets are less likely to be troubled by poison ivy but are occasionally affected by it.

The scientific name of the plant is Toxicodendron radicans. Knowing the old rhyme of “Leaves of three, let it be” may be the easiest way to tell if it might be poison ivy, but you need more information to be positive. These photos will allow you to identify the plant, both with and without leaves and at various stages of maturity.

8 Facts About Poison Ivy

While the leaves are the most toxic part of the plant, contact with any part (even when the plant is bare of foliage) can be toxic to you. Even if your cat or dog comes in contact with the plant, the animal can spread it to you. That is why it is essential to learn how to tell what poison ivy looks like throughout the growing season and beyond. This leaf close-up shows plants less than a foot high but already put on their green summer color. 

​The Spruce / Ana Cadena

​The Spruce / Ana Cadena 

​The Spruce / Ana Cadena

Where Poison Ivy Grows

Poison ivy is native to the eastern United States and eastern Canada; therefore, by definition, it can’t be considered invasive there, even though it spreads aggressively even in that region. But it could be invasive in regions to which it has been introduced. Poison ivy is not fussy about sun and soil conditions, which is one reason why it is such a successful weed.

Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) is commonly mistaken for poison ivy since it’s another vine that often grows in the same places. The difference between Virginia creeper and poison ivy is that it often grows in groupings of five leaflets. Similarly, both plants have a reddish center where the leaflets join. Also, Virginia creeper vines are much less hairy than poison ivy vines. 

At first glance, box elder (Acer negundo) seedlings grow as three leaflets, which can look like poison ivy. The significant difference is box elder leaves, however, are arranged opposite each other, not alternating like poison ivy.

How to Identify Poison Ivy

  • 01
    of 09

    Leaves of Young Plants

    The Spruce / David Beaulieu

    Young poison ivy plants often start in spring with orange or reddish leaves. Be aware that the margins of the leaves sometimes have notches in them (but not always, so this feature, in and of itself, is not enough to identify the weed). The plants here are just barely off the ground, but the oil (urushiol, which makes this plant toxic) can still rub off on the fabric of shoes and socks. It is possible to transfer the oil from your clothes to your skin, so be careful removing the garment if you think it came into contact with poison ivy.

  • 02
    of 09

    Mature Plants

    The Spruce / David Beaulieu

    As summer progresses and poison ivy plants mature, most of the leaves are green and about two feet high. Any new leaves that appear will still be reddish, as in spring (but the red color will not be as intense). Poison ivy vines often grow in a mass, taking over an area and becoming the dominant plant.

  • 03
    of 09

    Flower Buds

    The Spruce / David Beaulieu

    People seldom associate something as nasty as poison ivy with flowers, but it blooms. The blossoms are not especially attractive. The flower buds, which form in clusters, look like tiny specks of green if you are just glancing quickly at the plant.

  • 04
    of 09


    The Spruce / David Beaulieu

    Poison ivy produces relatively small, unremarkable off-white blossoms with orange centers. Unopened buds that are close to opening are also off-white. You will sometimes see a plant with both opened and unopened flower buds simultaneously (as in this example). Walking quickly past a patch of poison ivy plants in bloom, you would hardly notice the individual blossoms. 

  • 05
    of 09


    The Spruce / David Beaulieu

    Poison ivy plants also grow berries, which are just as toxic as the rest of the plants. An identifying trait of poison ivy is the color of its mature berries. They turn from a pale green to a whitish color when they ripen (in late summer to early fall). Poison sumac also has a curious white berry.

  • 06
    of 09

    Fall Foliage: Orange

    The Spruce / David Beaulieu

    The green summer color of poison ivy’s foliage yields brilliant fall foliage in red, yellow, or orange. The autumn brilliance of poison ivy’s foliage is due to the anthocyanin pigments characteristic of the plant family to which poison ivy belongs. Poison oak and poison sumac turn similarly colorful shades in fall. All three plants are members of the cashew family (Anacardiaceae). The color in autumn is as breathtaking as it is on any of the trees grown for their colorful fall foliage.

  • 07
    of 09

    Fall Foliage: Red

    The Spruce / David Beaulieu

    If poison ivy sprouts in the spring with red leaves, they often display reddish fall foliage. In this regard, poison ivy is a lot like red maple trees that show red buds in spring that are a preview of their gorgeous red fall foliage.

  • 08
    of 09

    Aerial Roots

    The Spruce / David Beaulieu

    You may have seen hairy vines climbing up trees or bristling along the tops of logs resting on the forest floor. The “hairs” are the vines’ aerial rootlets. That is what poison ivy looks like in winter after the old leaves have fallen off and before spring’s new leaves can take their place.

    Rootlets are why trees, tree stumps, and stone walls are covered in vines. Rootlets can cling to surfaces, allowing the vines to climb. When poison ivy has been climbing a tree for a long time, the vine can become so embedded into its bark that it essentially disappears, with only the rootlets visible.

  • 09
    of 09

    The Vines Can Damage Clapboard

    The Spruce / David Beaulieu

    Winter’s “hairy” vines are as toxic as the rest of the plant during other seasons. Poison ivy vines can climb up the walls of buildings. If they are allowed to climb up the side of a house, garage, barn, or outdoor storage shed sided with clapboards, they can wreak havoc with the clapboards over time, necessitating repair work.

How to Remove Poison Ivy

You should remove poison ivy from your property, so you don’t accidentally make contact with it while gardening. It is possible to eradicate poison ivy safely, whether organically (manually) or with herbicides, but you must take extreme precautions, which might take several attempts.

When working around poison ivy, it’s essential to wear gloves (wash the gloves and your clothes separately afterward from your other laundry) so that any residue you came in contact with isn’t transmitted to your food, face, pets, other people, or any other surfaces.

Identifying Poison Ivy vs. Poison Oak vs. Poison Sumac

Poison ivy and poison oak are more alike than poison sumac. They each look like they have three leaves per stem. Each leaf (or, in this case, leaflet) is 2 to 8 inches long and 1 to 5 inches wide. They have teeth along the edges of the leaf. The difference with poison oak is the teeth appear rounded, more like a rounded or bulbous common oak leaf; meanwhile, poison ivy teeth edges appear more pointy. Also, for poison ivy and oak, the juncture where the leaflet joins at the stem is often reddish.

The growth habits of poison ivy and oak are different. Poison ivy grows like a vine along the ground or up the sides of trees or structures. Poison oak grows like a shrub with leaves atop longer, upright stems. Like poison oak, poison sumac grows like a shrub or small tree. It can grow up to 20 feet tall and is often found in wooded, swampy locations.

A similarity poison sumac has to poison ivy or oak is its stems are red—more than poison ivy and oak. Also, they all produce white berries. Beyond that, poison sumac leaves look very different. Each leaflet is oblong with sharp, pointed tips and smooth edges. The leaflets do not group in threes. Instead, you can expect to see seven to 15 leaflets lined up in pairs; each leaf is about 2 to 4 inches long and 3⁄4 to 2 inches wide.

How to Safely Remove Poison Ivy

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  1. Toxicodendron Radicans. Missouri Botanical Garden

Landscape: Poison Ivy | Center for Agriculture, Food, and the Environment at UMass Amherst

One of the hazards for gardeners and landscape professionals is coming in contact with Eastern Poison Ivy, Toxicodendron radicans. Taxonomically, poison ivy is a member of plant family Anacardiaceae, also known as the cashew or sumac family. Other notable members of this family includes cashew, pistachio, and mango

Description and range

Native to New England, poison ivy is commonly found growing in a many types of habitats, including woodland edges, gardens, landscapes, roadsides, and riverbanks. It grows in areas from partial shade to full sun. Poison ivy is also adapted to a wide range of soil moisture conditions and commonly thrives is moist riparian areas as well as very dry and impoverished soils.

Leaflets three, let it be” sums up the most easily identified characteristic of poison ivy – its three leaflets. The middle leaflet of the three tends to be larger than the two on either side, but each measures from 2 to 4 inches in length. At maturity, the leaflets are dull or glossy green. New leaf shoots in spring tend to be droopy and reddish-green in color while in fall, the leaflets turn a vivid orange, red and yellow. The edges of a leaflet may be irregularly toothed, smooth, or lobed. Poison ivy produces clusters of small yellow-green flowers in the spring that originate in the axils of leaves, then later in the season, small green berries that turn light gray to white. The plant is known for its wildlife value and the berries are eaten by birds and other animals which help disperse the seed.

Poison ivy is a woody perennial and can be found in different forms. It may grow as a low, spreading shrub with fine stems. It may also grow as an upright, three foot tall shrub, or it may grow as a woody vine. Vines attach to tree trunks by way of aerial roots that make the vine look like a fuzzy rope. Images and additional identification notes for poison ivy can be found on the UMass Extension Weed can be found at: http://extension.umass.edu/landscape/weeds/toxicodendron-radicans

Rash, itch and blisters, OH MY!!!! The American Academy of Dermatology reports about 85 percent of people who come in contact with poison ivy will develop a rash. An individual that considers themselves a member of the “lucky 15 percent club” and boldly boasts “I do not get poison ivy” is never guaranteed that this will always be the case. Sensitivity to poison ivy can change at any point in one’s life. An allergic reaction is a response to a plant oil call urushiol. Urushiol is found in all parts of the plant and is released whenever the plant is crushed or bruised. When urushiol oil contacts skin, it can cause an allergic reaction, ranging from reddening and swelling, to blistering or open sores. Reactions will vary depending upon the sensitivity of the individual.

Contrary to popular belief, the rash caused by poison ivy is not spread by contact with open sores. However, the tacky oil is persistent and can be spread indirectly by contact with pets, garden tools, garden gloves, shoes, golf balls, or any other object that has come in contact with a bruised poison ivy plant. Urushiol oil also persists in dormant and dead plants. Poison ivy should never be burned since the smoke can carry the oil and cause problems to anyone inhaling the smoke. The use of a string trimmer or chainsaw can result in the splattering of urushiol and cause a severe rash.

Protect yourself from poison ivy. The best way to protect yourself from poison ivy is to be able to recognize the plant and either stay away or take the necessary precautions to limit exposure.

Working Near Poison Ivy?

  1. Consider wearing clothing that covers as much of your skin as possible. Long-sleeved shirts, pants, hats, heavy rubber gloves, socks, and closed-toe shoes are advised.
  2. If you suspect that you came in contact with poison ivy, soap will be your best friend. Rinsing your skin with cool, soapy water or rubbing alcohol within about an hour of touching poison ivy may remove the urushiol and help you avoid a rash — or at least make it less severe. You’ll also need to wash anything else that’s come in contact with the plant. Urushiol can remain potent for years, so skipping the cleanup could result in a rash at a later point.
  3. Over-the-counter products may provide relief of mild case of poison ivy. Consult a physician if the rash is widespread and/or severe. Severe cases may include trouble breathing or swallowing, swelling of face (especially eyes and mouth), and genitals.

Managing Poison Ivy

When attempting to control poison ivy, one should dress appropriately as discussed above. Physical or mechanical strategies are not encouraged for the control of poison ivy due to the risk of allergic reaction. An application of an herbicide will control plants and reduce the risk of an allergic reaction. Herbicides that contain the active ingredient glyphosate and triclopyr will effectively control poison ivy. Grasses are tolerant of triclopyr, therefore the use of triclopyr would be selected over glyphosate in areas where the product may contact lawn grasses. Exercise caution around broadleaf plants, as both herbicides will harm or injure these plants. Application should be made after full leaf expansion and when the plant is actively growing. In New England, the application period is late June through early September. It is important to note that the urushiol is active in dead plant material for several years. Unknowingly digging and hand-pulling poison ivy roots can result in severe dermatitis on unprotected hands.

Written by: Randy Prostak
Revised: 08/2016

Poison ivy: properties, characteristics of the plant

Poison ivy has a scientific name rooting toxicodendron (lat. Toxicodendron radicans). This plant has nothing to do with simple harmless ivy. They are very similar in appearance, which is why they call it that. Ivy and sumac are often confused. But sumac is a lacquered toxicodendron in the form of a shrub or tree. Those. they are very similar, but still different.


  • What is poison ivy?
  • Why is poison ivy dangerous?
  • What are the health benefits of poison ivy?

What is poison ivy?

Poison ivy is classified as a plant, touching the leaves of which can cause burns or other consequences – for example, in the form of general poisoning. Everything is poisonous in him – both the stem, and the leaves, and the flowers, and the fruits.
But, despite the toxicity and high danger to human life, this ivy is considered a plant with medicinal properties, and is often used in medicine. Therefore, it is worth getting acquainted with this interesting and so controversial plant closer, to find out what threats and benefits it hides.

This plant is very different from the relatives of the genus Toxicodendron Mill, which have a tree appearance. Poison ivy is more like a vine, sometimes a small shrub. It sends its flexible long stems along the ground or envelops trees with them, using additional roots for this.

Just like everything dangerous, poison ivy is very beautiful in appearance. During the warm season, its branches are covered with large green leaves. With the advent of autumn, they turn red-orange. In early summer, yellow inflorescences begin to appear on the branches, which in autumn turn into clusters of fruits – round white-green drupes. North America, from Mexico to Canada, is considered the birthplace of the toxicondron. In those places, it can often be seen in the forests or among the bushes. In our country, there are 2 types of wild-growing poison ivy, and then only in the South Kuriles. One of them is called oriental, and the second is called hairy. But their nature is unfriendly. They are equally poisonous and cause severe poisoning when touched.

Why is poison ivy dangerous?

This plant is still poorly studied, and there are different opinions about it. And if we talk about domestic species, then they have not yet been studied at all. But it is precisely clear that it secretes a liquid, which is called milky juice. In the air, it turns black, and it is she who is very poisonous. According to a group of scientists, this juice contains a resin called urshiolha. Others claim that the substance that contains the juice is a derivative of phenol. There is also a third opinion – the juice is called toxicodendrolic acid, and they consider it a mixture of glycosides. Another well-known fact is that the bark of these plants contains a poison called lobitin.

Whatever the name of this substance, a very small amount of it is enough to burn yourself. If you touch any of the parts of the vine or branch, a burn will immediately appear on the skin.

In America, i.e. at home, this ivy is often the cause of many poisonings. Many of these cases end badly.

What are the health benefits of poison ivy?

Like many dangerous poisonous plants, it is used in medicine because it can heal. Its study in medicine began at the end of the 18th century. Then it was first used to treat paralysis and rheumatism. The effect of poison ivy on the body is accompanied by a skin rash, nausea and vomiting. Symptoms are similar to fever or fever. The glands swell, ulcers appear in the mouth. These properties were used by doctors. A remedy called Rhus tox, made from toxicodendron, is used in the treatment of those ailments that accompany fever, restlessness, and swollen glands.

The medicine is made from ivy sap collected during its high activity. This juice is mixed with pure alcohol, then filtered, and, adding some more components, is used for its intended purpose.

Stem and leaf tincture is used by homeopaths to treat colds, flu, rheumatism, various skin and eye diseases. It is also treated with scarlet fever, wet lichen, malaria, used for blistering rashes and abscesses. A remedy called “Akofit”, which has in its composition a tincture of ivy leaves, is often used in modern medicine in the treatment of neuralgia, rheumatism and radiculitis.

Perhaps the same medicinal properties are found in those plant species that grow here. With proper research, they could be used for treatment, like a distant North American relative.

Poison ivy is a dangerous plant :: SYL.ru

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General information about the plant

In nature, there are a number of plants dangerous to humans, among which poison ivy occupies one of the first places. Fortunately, in our climatic zone it is rarely found, but still, every person should know how to protect themselves from contact with him. Any contact of exposed skin with this plant leads to serious consequences, which are expressed in general intoxication of the body and local skin lesions. Poison ivy has a corresponding name – rooting toxicodendron. It belongs to the Sumac family. In Greek, its name means “poison tree”. Despite such an eloquent name, poison ivy is a small shrub or woody vine. Its thin and flexible stems often climb the trunks of closely growing trees and shrubs or spread along the ground. Adventitious roots help him cling to the support.

Description of the plant

North America is considered to be the birthplace of rooting toxicodendron. In the CIS countries, this plant is grown in botanical gardens for research purposes. In the wild on the territory of the CIS countries, there are two species of plants from the genus Toxicodendron (Oriental toxicodendron and hairy-fruited), but they are distributed in a small area – in the South Kuriles. Both of these species are no less poisonous and dangerous to humans. Despite the fact that the distribution range of toxicodendrons is considered limited, no one can guarantee that poison ivy cannot be found anywhere else. The fact is that at present many plant species are found even where they could not have been imagined 15-20 years ago. Poison ivy is a plant with characteristic trifoliate leaves. The leaves are rhombic or ovoid in shape. They are located on petioles, the length of which is 2-4 cm. The total petiole of the leaf reaches a length of 20 cm. The foliage of poison ivy in the summer has a dark green color, which turns crimson-orange in autumn. This plant blooms with yellowish-green flowers collected in small paniculate inflorescences located in the axils of the leaves. Poison ivy produces fruits that are rounded drupes of a grayish-yellow hue. They are collected in dense clusters. This plant blooms in June, and the fruits ripen in September. In more northern latitudes, flowering begins in July. Some extreme gardeners breed this highly ornamental plant in their gardens. Poison ivy, which requires the utmost care, will not cause harm if contacted with tight clothing, rubber gloves, and precautions are taken. For animals, this plant is harmless.

Contact with poison ivy

This plant is often used for medicinal purposes (most often in homeopathy). Poison ivy preparations are prescribed for neuralgia, rheumatism, colds, diseases of the eyes and skin. The milky juice contains resin – urshiol, which has toxic properties. The bark of this ivy also contains such a toxic substance as lobitin. Not all people have an increased sensitivity to the toxins of this plant, although there have even been cases of contact with poison ivy in the world that have a fatal outcome. Poisoning is expressed by the appearance of dermatitis and blisters. Further, there is a deterioration in the general condition, a prolonged metabolic disorder. It should be remembered that clothing, equipment, and even animal hair that has been in contact with poison ivy can also cause poisoning.