How to identify Poison Ivy

I already knew this info, but it’s good info, especially for those who are new to the outdoors.

good stuff…
I didn’t know about the “hairy” vine part.

Vines get big, hairy and scary around

It can also be very sneaky in mowed areas next to woods and weeds, so you can get the oils on your shoes and transfer the oils into your house and not even suspect it. Sometimes, you can get the rash from oils that have been on your clothes, car or carpet for weeks.

Very useful post
As a northerner I haven’t much trouble identifying poison ivy around here. Long ago learned to identify its 3 leaflets and learned about the berries after a friend picked a bunch of them during a winter walk and broke out after she took her pullover sweater off. That it could be such a large vine was something I learned more recently. Hiking in the mountains of N. Georgia a few winters ago with a friend, I asked him what this big vine crawling up a tree was. Of course, I pointed it out by touching it. After he answered, I b-lined down to the nearby stream to wash my hands (had some camp suds in my day pack). No bad effects but I hope I learned my lesson about not touching stuff when I don’t know what it is.

People know to look for it on the ground
but many don’t know how the branches reach out from vines on trees or river bank rocks.

My way…
is to tel that obnoxius hiker that insistes on playign his radio when we hike to 'use that plant! I hear the Indians used it for TP!"

If he chases me with a camp hatchet, i know it was poison ivy!

in certain places , I call the stuff …

– Last Updated: Mar-10-09 7:20 PM EST –

...... Amazon Ivy !!

One area in particular comes to mind right off ... Chip would know this area for sure , it's one of the places he speaks about paddling often .

I call it Amazon Ivy because by mid summer this stuff engulfs the trees it grows up , hangs all kinds of feeder branches out and is just down right gigantis , with it's massives leafs and hairy vines , glistening with a "I dare you touch me" anywhere !!

.... and it really is true , many people just don't know what poison ivy looks like , no matter how big or small it is , same with p.oak and p.sumac .

Rub it on your skin…
mark the location, and if you get a bunch of red/yellow oozing blisters than it is poison ivy :wink: if you are not in Cali.

The alternative is to
assume it’s poison ivy and spray it with poison ivy killer. If it dies you will know without the risk of a severe reaction.


Leaves of three;
Let it be.

My long departed Grandmother (God rest her soul) always claimed that if you put a leaf of poison ivy in a sandwich and ate it that you would be immune from poison ivy thereafter.

If any of you have ever tried this folk cure, let me know. I never had the nerve.

If you are sensitive to the stuff, it,
…affects you on the inside too. A non-sensitive person might get away with this and think it worked, when all they’ve actually done is drastically increased their risk for becoming sensitive at some future time. A person who is sensitive to the plant is likely to be a miserable wreck “from stem to stern” after trying something like this, and must then look forward to more severe skin reactions from normal contact than they have experienced thus far in their life.

Don’t try it.

Poison Ivy
This plant also grows like a shrub with woody stems…often misleading as we think of it as a ground plant (or vine). Also, the smoke from burning the woody portions of a poison ivy plant can cause severe irritation to eyes and lungs, possibly skin, too.

Remember this little jingle… “If the leaves are in a three, leave the plant be”.

Poison Ivy
The test of picking poison ivy and then waiting to see what happens doesn’t work for me; I’m not allergic. As an obnoxious kid, I used to pick it with my hands in front of allergic friends just to tease them.

However, response to poison ivy can change at any time. When my Grandfather was about my present age he suddenly came down with a bad case of poison ivy, when he never before had a reaction. I don’t pick it by hand anymore, both because of consideration to those who are very allergic, and the knowledge that I might have joined them without yet knowing it.


another folk cure - deadly nightshade

Looking For Special Markings/Body Parts
Whether identifying plants or birds, you can use similar techniques.

As far as poison ivy goes, I’ve mostly seen people get it from going off trail. Sometimes you will actually see a sign posted about poison ivy being present.

I am not a real bird watcher, but I have learned when I get home, and look at my bird book, I can’t discern between one or more birds to know which one I saw.

I learned to look at the most distinguishing features, the shape/length of the bill (beak), the coloring of the head, and if any other coloring seems very different, like under the wings, tail length/shape. Simply noting color will leave you with too many options when looking at a bird book.

It helps to notice where you saw the bird, by the water, marshy areas, or inland. I was able to identify one bird in my yard by it’s eating habits. It had a long bill and used it to get food from between my terraced backyard, which it also stated in my bird book, so I knew I had the right bird:

You can use these same techiniques for identifying lots of things.


–How’s that for identifying it?

On some of the local hiking trails
the difficulty is identifying something that isn’t poison ivy.

We also have a little behind the house and I’ve gotten into it a few times, but with no ill effects (was allergic as a kid). I think between the sweat and the afternoon shower, I just don’t get or retain the oils from the plant.

My boss is super sensitive to it and claims to have broke out in a rash from a coat that was stored for 9 months of so. I had no idea that could even happen.


dog gone poison ivy
Those of you who like to take the dog along paddling beware. Last summer I took Jester our Border Collie with me on the Snake River in east central MN. We stopped a few times and he’ get out for a run. then back in the kayak, and down the river we go. This kayak has a large cockpit and he liked ride in between my legs in front of me. About three days later I was covered from my ankles on up.

The oils stick to a dogs fur, clothes, anything that has come in contact with it can pass it along to you.

My grandmother use to recomend pine tar soap after she was out in the brush in case she was exposed. Always had it along camping and ricing. Do they still make the stuff?

poison ivy in MN
usually the poison ivy I have seen in MN is low to the ground. No problems identifying it. I have not seen the climbing variation of it yet.