How to Identify Poison Ivy

by Lisa Rosen on July 7, 2011


Confession:  I have no idea what poison ivy looks like.  I know the old adage–leaves of three, let it be–but what does that mean exactly?

Herewith, my dilemma.

The thing above: obviously not poison ivy (it’s a pretty white flower; Queen Anne’s Lace, specifically).  Okay, that was an easy one.

This one:  also not poison ivy.  It’s a wildflower, but I think that botanically it’s some sort of legume.  Pretty, no?

How about a sweet little yellow flower?  Lovely, but I’m still fairly confident that it isn’t poison ivy.

Once we get away from the flowers, I have to really look carefully.  But I’m pretty certain this is not poison ivy.  Those leaves are bigger than my head, and I’m fairly certain poison ivy is sneakier than that.

The frondy-looking stuff reminds me of carrots, and they don’t give me a rash.  So I’m fairly certain this is safe.

Red alert! Red alert!  Leaves of three.  BUT–that is a blackberry.  I’m usually pretty good at identifying things that can go into a pie, so I’m just positive that is definitely a blackberry.

This has three leaves, but it’s clover.  Harmless.

But now we are into tricky territory.  Three leaves.

Also three leaves.

And three leaves.

Oh wait.  This one has five.  But am I really going to know the difference when I go stomping through a patch of it on my hike tomorrow afternoon?  I think not.

This might be it.  But then again–it might not.  As you can see, I have no idea what the stuff looks like.  I know it’s around here; Lee once went outside with a weedeater and wound up with the worst case of poison ivy you’ve ever seen.  Apparently you shouldn’t inhale the toxic miasma created when large amounts of the oil are released into the air.

And we still don’t know how to identify it.  Suggestions?  Bueller?

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Rebecca Rosen July 8, 2011 at 2:58 pm

The second picture below the clover is poison ivy. I am fairly good at identifying it. On every walk in the woods, I will bore you to tears repeating “That is poison ivy” and “That is also poison ivy” and “Oh look, poison ivy.” Until you get it down. Or tell me to shut up. Or say something clever like, “Enough! Let’s drink wine and go shopping.”


Lisa Rosen July 11, 2011 at 2:58 pm

I’ll take you up on that. Probably, y’know–today. Or tomorrow.


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