Click on any photo to see a larger version.

Poison Ivy in Full Sun 

Poison ivy growing out in the sun. Ivy that grows in full sun is generally lighter in color and has more red than ivy that grows in shade, but this is not always the case. Ivy in full sun can often have leaves that look "wilted", although this plant does not.

Newly Sprouted Poison Ivy 

The only exception to the alternate-leaf-arrangement is when poison ivy plants first come up from seed. In fact, young poison ivy also breaks the 3-leaves rule (see the small two leaves at the base). However, neither of these conditions last for long as the plant grows. 

Poison Ivy in the Shade 

Poison ivy in shade can often have a deeper green color. My friend has ivy growing under their bush in full shade and it's a very dark forest-green color. Note that the stems are all green and there is no red center on any of the leaves in this photo. 

Poison Ivy in Bloom

Yes... poison ivy blooms! It has small white-yellow flowers that later turn in to white berries. ("Berries white... run in fright!")

Birds eat the berries (with no ill effects), poop out the seeds that were inside the berries, and voila... you have poison ivy in your garden! 

New Red Leaf

A new leaf is forming. Sometimes young leaves are red (especially when the plant is in full sun) but sometimes not. All of the leaves in the photo are of the same poison ivy plant, but note that some are shiny and some are not. 

Curly New Leaves  

Another set of new leaves on an established plant. These are curly and shiny... but still poison ivy.

Tall Poison Ivy 

Poison ivy can grow quite tall when it is freestanding. This plant was about 4 feet tall and was surrounded by smaller plants. 

Poison Ivy Growing Up a Tree

Poison ivy vines attach themselves and the plant just keeps climbing up. Vines can grow on fences, trees, up telephone poles, the sides of houses... wherever it can attach itself. The tendril-like hairs are very sticky and lets the plant easily attach to things.

Poison Ivy Vines

Poison ivy vines are hairy and very woody. They can get quite thick and large over time. The vines are just as toxic as the leaves, so don't touch them, either. They have dark, tendril-like hair that helps hold the vine hold on.

There are several leaves attached to this vine. Really thick vines will have large canopies of leaves on their top, almost like a small tree.  

Very Large Leaves

Poison ivy leaves can get very large, although this is not a photo of as large as leaves can get... check this out. Regardless of the size of a leaf, it's still toxic no matter what.

Also notice the shape of these leaves... more lobed than notched, but is still poison ivy.



Not every plant with three leaves or that looks like poison ivy is a problem. Here are photos of plants that are NOT poison ivy. Click each photo to see a larger version. 

By the way, unless you're absolutely certain what you're touching is safe, don't touch it. Better safe than sorry!


This plant, commonly known as brambles, could be raspberry or blackberry.

How to tell: 

Although it has the 3-leaf pattern and the leaves are arranged alternately, it has thorns and that means it can't be poison ivy. 

Another example of a bramble plant - this one is likely raspberry.
Box Elder

Box Elder is a tree, but when it is young, it fools a lot of people with its 3 leaves and red stems.

How to tell: 

Box elder leaves are arranged opposite each other on the stem, therefore, it can't be ivy.

Another box elder tree. As this tree gets older, it will have 3 to 5 leaves instead of just 3. 
Maple Tree

Newly sprouted maple trees look like they have 3 leaves on first glance and they also have red stems.

How to tell:

Look closely at the leaves. Not only are they one leaf as opposed to three, but they are opposite and not alternate.

Another maple tree seedling.
Virginia Creeper

Virginia creeper will climb and crawl just like poison ivy and can grow in sun or shade.

How to tell:

Count the leaves. Virginia Creeper will have 3, 5, or 7 leaflets (occasionally more) which means it's not ivy.

More Virginia Creeper. Notice that the vine has a leaf that is a group of 3 leaflets. This is what generally throws people off and makes them think it is poison ivy. However, that leaf is attached to a vine that has other leaves growing on it that have 4 or 5 leaflets, so it can't be poison ivy.
Fragrant Sumac

I have to admit this one threw me for a loop. It was growing at the edge of the woods, was low to the ground, had 3 leaflets arranged alternately, and no thorns. The leaves even looked like poison ivy leaves I've seen before. 

How to tell: 

What finally gave it away was the berries (see next photo).

This small, fuzzy red berry gave this away as being Fragrant Sumac, which is not poisonous. Poison ivy has white berries and they are never fuzzy. (I also knew that poison ivy in general was in bloom at this time of year and had not produced berries yet.)

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