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Friday, June 4, 2010

Identifying Poison Ivy and Poison Oak

Working outside, I couldn't help but wonder if I'd get myself into some poison ivy.  I realized I didn't *really* know what it looks like, only that it had 3 leaves... so I looked it up!


The adage “Leaves of Three, Let It Be” is actually a good suggestion. Poison oak and ivy are master imitators, taking on the leaf shape of the plants around them and making them difficult to identify. The three-leaf pattern gives them away, so you’re safer staying away from any three-leafed plant unless you’re sure it isn’t poisonous.

Poison oak and poison ivy can be difficult to tell apart, and the leaf shape varies from region to region.

The leaves may be serrated, round, or oak-like depending on what other foliage is around the poison oak plants. They may be shiny, or not. They may have a red tinge, or not.  The plant itself may be single stalks of three leaves close to the ground. Or a bush. Or a vine climbing up a tree.

A large poison ivy vine growing up a tree.

Like poison ivy, poison oak usually has a cluster of three broad leaves, though it can have up to seven. The leaves tend to be glossy, and the plant grows upright.Western poison oak has lobed leaflets like an oak tree, while eastern poison oak is more like a glossy version of poison ivy.