Plants of New Jersey # 5 Poison Ivy

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Poison Ivy Leaves Carpeting the Open Woodland Floor

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.


New Poison Ivy (Light Green Leaves) vs. Mature Poison Ivy (Dark Green 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. 

Poison Ivy

Poison Ivy Rope

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:


Poison Ivy on the Left, Virginia Creeper on the Right

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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13 thoughts on “Plants of New Jersey # 5 Poison Ivy

  1. shoreacres

    I wish I’d read this post about three months ago. Enough said. Your photos are great, and I appreciated you adding the one of the vine. I know that I’ve seen that; now, I know what it is.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. H.J. for avian101

    I have no problem with poison ivy but I do with poison oak. Thank you for remind us to be careful. 🙂


  3. BNS

    Be careful of using any logs that might have a hairy vine in your fireplaces! I had a horrible case of poison ivy one winter that was traced back to burning logs. In addition to being all over my face, It was inside of my nose and throat. The dr finally gave me a cortisone shot bc it was so bad.


  4. Pingback: Plants of New Jersey # 23 Virginia Creeper |

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