Poison Ivy Plant Identification

Overview

Poison ivy (Rhus radicans) may lurk in corners of gardens, forests or meadows. Most people are unaware of encountering the plant until they experience skin irritations and severe itching. While many commonly confuse it with other harmless plants, poison ivy isn't difficult to identify from the size, shape and arrangement of its leaves.

Leaves

Poison ivy sports bright green leaves that grow in clusters of three. They are generally ovoid-shaped, though they may have teeth. The leaves are somewhat elongated rather than squat and average 2 to 4 inches in length. They sometimes appear oily and are smooth rather than hairy.

Flowers

Poison ivy plants produce flowers in June and July. The flowers are yellow or yellow-green and grow in small clusters.

Berries

Poison ivy plants produce small berries, 3/16-inch in diameter. The berries are gray to white in color and are generally too small to be noticed without a close inspection of the plant.

Types

Poison ivy grows in three types: erect shrub, trailing shrub and vine. The erect shrub maintains a bush shape, while the trailing shrub creeps along the ground. The vine trails like a vine and may grow along trees or other objects.

Considerations

Poison ivy is often confused with either Virginia creeper or sumac. Virginia creeper has five leaflets growing from a cluster in contrast to the three leaflets found in poison ivy. Sumac has leaflets with three leaves but its leaves are hairy, not smooth. Neither Virginia creeper nor sumac causes skin irritations.

Keywords: poison ivy, poison ivy identification, harmful plants

About this Author

Based in Northern California, Elton Dunn is a freelance writer and nonprofit consultant with 14 years' experience. Dunn specializes in travel, food, business, gardening, education and the legal fields. His work has appeared in various print and online publications. Dunn holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and a Bachelor of Arts in English.