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Monday, February 9, 2015

Geocaching Question - Is It Poison Ivy Or Isn't It?

I was out in Northern Raleigh, NC yesterday and both wife Amy and myself came to some secluded local parks that had poison ivy logs with ranting throughout. Just for giggles and kicks I decided to see what all the hysteria was about and if it was indeed a poison ivy infestation.

Much to my relief the plants in question were completely mis-identified. So I figured it is that time of year again to give a little tutorial about poison ivy and plants that are not poisonous but kind of look like it. At the end there is a really great web page giving even more examples of these plants.

First off let me show you a photo I took from one of several parks in the area that are all covered in this plant. Again many people insisted this was poison ivy.

This is not poison ivy. This is English Ivy.
One of the rules that people go by is "Leaves of Three, let it be". Which if you are very allergic to the oils from certain plants is a good rule to go by. On the other hand you can also miss out of some spectacular scenery if you know what you are looking for. Keep in mind that poison ivy has three separate leaves to a cluster. The English Ivy above has what looks like three leaves or actually five leaves if you look close. Yet it actually is one big leaf with five sides. Not Poison Ivy.

Here is what Poison Ivy actually looks like.

The above picture is actual Eastern Poison Ivy. Note the three separate leaves per cluster, the serrated edge of the leaves and finally no thorns on the stems. Many people confuse wild rasberries as Poison Ivy. Again leaves of three, let them be.

Here is another plant that some people may or may not be allergic to. This is Poison Oak and though not pictured below it's cousin Poison Sumac is also a hazard to some. Note the grouping of leaves.

Poison Oak

Finally here are a few examples of plants that are not poisonous to most people but get mistaken as Poison Ivy.

Box Elder
Box Elder looks very similar to Poison Ivy except for one main distinction. It alternates its clumps of leaves. In other words It has a clump of three leaves and below that it will have a clump of two leaves. Unlike Poison Ivy which always have clumps of three leaves all along the stem.

Virginia Creeper

I thought for years that this was poison ivy. Even though it was leaves of five instead of three. It looked just like Poison Ivy, turns out it is completely harmless and quite stunning to look at.

Okay I hope you enjoyed this little helpful guide of plant like goodness. Here is that link I promised that gives even more information if you are interested.


-Andy Headhardhat Smith



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