Welcome! Today we will discuss Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans). Poison Ivy can be found growing as a hairy vine, a shrub reaching over three feet tall, or as a trailing vine on the ground. The flowers of Poison Ivy are green and appear in the late spring or early summer. The berries appear in late summer first as green then later as gray or white. New leaves are a lighter green than the mature leaves.
Poison Ivy thrives near fences, open woods and areas of disturbance. I’ve seen Poison Ivy growing anywhere from freshwater wetlands to dry upland woods. It is not picky about soil! At least sixty species of birds have been known to eat the berries which persist through the winter. This of course helps spread poison ivy. Good for wildlife but bad for humans!
Birds that eat the berries include the below among others:
Poison ivy contains a clear liquid known as urushiol which causes a burning itching rash in many people. All parts of the plant contain urushiol. Be warned! You can still get a painful itchy rash even in winter if you touch a hairy vine.
It helps to remember the following jingles to remind you of the dangers of this plant:
- “Leaves of three, leave them be”
- “Hairy rope, don’t be a dope”
- “Hairy vine, no friend of mine”
Common plants often misidentified as Poison Ivy include the below among others:
Taking a look at the picture above is an easy way to tell the difference between Poison Ivy which is on the left and Virginia Creeper which is on the right. Virginia Creeper has five leaves whereas Poison Ivy has three.
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