3 Keys to Identifying Poison Ivy

Posted on January 9, 2020 at 10:00 AM by Tom Swegle

An image of Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac

Poison Ivy is the most widespread poison plant in existence.

Most people find that the results of an encounter with poison ivy are quite unforgettable. Itchy rash, swelling, and general discomfort can be only the beginning.  While most people think they can avoid an outbreak by simply staying away from nature, poison ivy prevention is more complicated than avoiding certain areas. Understanding where to find the plant helps, but first, you must know how to identify the plant and similar plants like poison oak and sumac.

Poison ivy grows in every state in America with the exception of California, Alaska, and Hawaii. It also grows in every territory in Canada with the exception of Newfoundland. Chances are you live in a state or territory where this dangerous plant is quite common. Poison ivy is a robust plant, and it grows well in a variety of climates. In the winter, the leaves disappear leaving a brown vine behind. In the spring, the vine turns green, and white berries or flowers begin to appear. In summer, the plant is in full bloom with the leaves at their highest levels of potency. In the fall, the leaves change colors just like non-poisonous trees and plants. Poison ivy is a threat nearly all year long, whether you live in a state with a mild climate or extreme climate.

While many think poison ivy is confined to remote areas in the woods, it can grow in a variety of settings. Prepare yourself by remembering three key items about how to identify poison ivy.

How to Identify Poison Ivy

  1. The Three Leaves Rule: Poison ivy is easily recognized by the three leaves rule. A generally accepted rule is that if a plant has three leaves, it is poisonous.

  2. The Shape of the Leaves Matters:  Poison Ivy may have more than three leaves so it is also important to be able to recognize the common shapes of the leaves. Poison ivy leaves will be shaped in broad, oval shapes some call spoons. The edges will have an almost jagged appearance as opposed to a smooth one. The color of the leaves can be green or red when the plant is young, however, it is important to note that, like nonpoisonous plants, leaves can change colors with the seasons, or not be present at all.

  3. Poison Ivy Comes in Many Forms: Poison ivy can grow on the ground like a vine, up walls and trees as a vine, and as a ground shrub. When dealing with poison ivy in any of these forms, remember to look at not just the number of leaves, but also the shape.

What if there are no leaves?

Even without leaves, poison ivy is still a danger. Being able to identify the vines of poison ivy can help in removal efforts. Be on the lookout for vines with small clusters of light green or white berries or white flowers. In the spring, most vines take on this appearance when preparing to sprout leaves. Even without the presence of leaves, care should be taken to avoid the poison ivy vine.

Protect Yourself and the ones You love: Outdoor Joe's Poison Ivy Pro® Prevents Poison Ivy Rash

For extra protection against the painful rash associated with these poisonous plants, Outdoor Joe's® (formerly Rhus Tox) is a homeopathic solution capable of helping you reduce the sensitivity to the effects of poison ivy. Outdoor Joe's® is safe for all ages so you can protect the entire family!


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