If you spend any time hiking or exploring in woods or fields, chances are you will come upon poison ivy at some point. Poison ivy is a challenge to avoid because this poisonous plant grows in a variety of forms and it has leaves that vary in appearance as well. If you contact the oils contained in the foliage, fruit or roots of this plant in any way, you will likely develop a painfully itchy rash with fluid-filled blisters.
Avoid plants with leaves that grow in groups of three. Poison ivy has divided leaves and the leaves usually grow with one leaf on the end of the leaf stem and two leaves growing opposite each other below the first leaf. Looking carefully at the leaf stalks, the leaf on the end has a longer leaf stalk than the two leaves growing opposite each other.
Realize that poison ivy leaves vary significantly in color, shape and texture. Some poison ivy leaves have smooth edges and others have jagged edges, round toothed edges or even lobes. Poison ivy starts out in the spring with reddish leaves. Over the summer poison ivy leaves turn green. In the autumn, poison ivy leaves turn into brilliant orange, yellow and red colors.
Remember that poison ivy grows in several different forms. It may grow low across the surface of the soil or it may attach to vertical objects as a vine and climb vertically along structures or trees. Poison ivy also grows as an individual shrub at times (some people call a poison ivy shrub "poison oak").
Look for light colored berries growing among the leaves directly off the stems. These berries may resemble grape clusters and the seeds have light rinds surrounding them.