Poison ivy is an extremely prevalent plant east of the Rocky Mountains, and probably one of the most well known poisonous plants in the world. The common nature of the plant is probably due to the fact that many different bird species feed on its berries, as poison ivy does not have the same irritating effect on animals that it does on humans.
There is a resin in the plant’s sap called urushiol that causes an itchy rash for humans following contact with any part of the plant. You’ve probably heard the “leaves of three, let it be” rule, which dictates that a plant with a compound leaf of three—or three distinct leaflets joining together on a single stem—may be poisonous and should be avoided. However, the trouble with poison ivy is that even within this rule, it can take on many different appearances that vary by season or even just by plant. That means “what does poison ivy look like?” doesn’t have the same answer all the time.
So, What Does Poison Ivy Look Like?
Poison ivy leaves can present as smooth-edged, or wavy or jagged, and can also appear either waxy and shiny or dull. Additionally, they may be perceived as hairy or be completely smooth. Leaves will be roughly two to five inches long, with the center leaflet having a longer stalk than the side leaflets. What does poison ivy look like as it changes throughout the year? In the springtime, the plants will blossom with very small white flowers. Over the course of the summer months, the plant will produce greenish berries. In the fall, the plants leaflets will turn red in the fall and boast waxy, dense clusters of white berries through winter. It is important to be vigilant even during winter months, as you can still be affected by poison ivy during the cold season. The plant will have lost its leaves, but you can still identify it by its berries, gray bark, and aerial or above ground roots. Poison ivy can present as a climbing plant that vines up trees and other standing structures, and also as a shrub or widespread ground colonies. Remember to look out for these other “harmless” things that could make your yard dangerous.
What If You See Poison Ivy in Your Yard?
If you discover poison ivy in your yard, don’t burn it or try to pull it up (even with gloves), but instead clip the plant down and smother with newspaper. To deal with a poison ivy infection, wash the afflicted area immediately after touching the plant with warm soap and water, and try to limit irritation with calamine lotion or hydrocortisone. You can also try these 10 proven poison ivy rash home remedies.
Sources: 1,519 All-Natural, All-Amazing Gardening Secrets, College of Agricultural & Natural Resources at Michigan State University, americanskin.org, landscaping.about.com