A run-in with Poison Ivy leaves most people with an uncomfortable, itchy rash, so it’s important to know how to identify it out in nature. It’s often confused with similar vines, so here are some tips so you can know the difference.
Poison Ivy always has three leaves, and it’s leaf pattern is always the same. The center leaf of Poison Ivy grows on a longer stem than the other two, and is usually slightly larger in size. Poison Ivy grows as a ground cover, but can also climb if trees or shrubs are nearby. If it does start to climb, the vine will be covered in small hairs.
Virginia Creeper is one vine that is often confused with Poison Ivy. It can have three leaves, but quickly changes to have four or five. Virginia Creeper is also a ground cover and can climb trees, but the stem is woody and doesn’t have the hairy look that Poison Ivy has.
Another vine that may get confused for Poison Ivy is Boston Ivy. Boston Ivy can have three leaves like Poison Ivy, however all of its leaflets are attached by a stalk, unlike Poison Ivy with only the center leaf having the stalk. Boston Ivy may also mature to have only one large leaf instead of three.
While these three vines are similar, only Poison Ivy contains urushiol, the oil that causes the itchy rash. There are some lucky people who don’t react to Poison Ivy, but for those who do, remember these tips and remind yourself “Leaves of three, let it be. Leaves of five, let it thrive.”
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