Pictures of Poison Ivy

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    What the Young Leaves of Poison Ivy Look Like

    Image of young leaves of poison ivy.
    This is what the young leaves of poison ivy look like, while the plants are still fresh in spring. David Beaulieu

    I am often asked, "What does poison ivy look like?" Indeed, it's more than merely an academic question, since being able to identify the "itchy rash vine" with confidence can prevent you from an unfortunate encounter with it -- or, more specifically, from developing the rash that often follows an encounter with it. The scientific name of the plant is Rhus radicans or, alternatively, Toxicodendron radicans. I furnish you with images that will allow you to identify the plant...MORE both with and without leaves. My goal is to ensure that you can identify it winter, spring, summer, and fall.


    In addition, I also present pictures of poison ivy lookalikes, for the sake of comparison. There's no sense in being afraid of these wannabes: save your energy for avoiding the real thing!


    Thus my pictures of poison ivy are designed to allow you to see what poison ivy looks like throughout the growing season. This leaf closeup picture shows plants that are less than a foot high. This is how the plants will often look in spring. Be careful not to come into contact with them while doing your spring cleaning in the yard.


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  • 02 of 30

    Young Leaflet Picture

    Poison ivy leaves are sometimes notched.
    The poison ivy leaves in the picture happen to be notched, but you cannot rely on this for identification: the foliage will often lack this feature. David Beaulieu

    Poison ivy leaflets are sometimes notched....


    This feature may be more prominent in young poison ivy leaflets (as here). In the picture above, I've circled the notch.


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  • 03 of 30

    Leaves of Young Poison Ivy Plants

    Picture of poison ivy.
    Picture of poison ivy in spring, with its reddish leaves. David Beaulieu

    Red is the color of alert, so let these leaves be a warning to you....


    Young poison ivy plants often start out in spring with reddish leaves. The plants in this picture are just barely off the ground. But beware: this fact does not make them any less toxic.


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  • 04 of 30

    Pictures of Poison Ivy - Color Changes

    Picture of an orangy poison ivy leaf.
    Picture of an orangy poison ivy leaf. David Beaulieu

    This poison ivy photo is of a plant still under a foot high....


    Besides the intense red of young poison ivy foliage discussed in the previous entry, a more washed-out, orangy-green foliage is often encountered on young poison ivy plants.


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  • 05 of 30

    What Does Poison Ivy Look Like?

    What poison ivy looks like.
    Photo of leaves of mature plants in summer. David Beaulieu

    Although you must beware whenever you enter a weedy patch, lest poison ivy be lurking within (amongst other weeds), the itchy vine often announces its presence with a louder statement, as the dominant plant....


    This picture of poison ivy shows what the plants look like once they've matured. The leaves are green, and the plants are about two feet high. Poison ivy vines often grow en masse, as in this picture, thereby "taking over" an area and becoming the dominant plant.


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  • 06 of 30

    Pictures of the Flower Buds

    Picture of poison ivy flower buds.
    Picture of poison ivy flower buds. David Beaulieu

    People often don't associate something as nasty as poison ivy with flowers, but....


    Yes, this weed does bloom! Your sense of justice may perhaps be mollified, however, by the fact that the blossoms aren't especially attractive. This picture of poison ivy shows what poison ivy flower buds look like.


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  • 07 of 30

    Poison Ivy Flowers

    Picture of poison ivy flowers. As this picture shows, poison ivy flowers are rather unremarkable.
    Picture of poison ivy flowers. David Beaulieu

    As this picture shows, poison ivy flowers are rather unremarkable....


    In fact, this picture probably does these forbidden flowers too much justice, since it is a close-up shot. Walking quickly past a patch of poison ivy plants in bloom, you would hardly notice the individual blossoms.


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  • 08 of 30

    Pictures of Poison Ivy -- Ripened Berries

    Photo of the white berries of poison ivy.
    Photo of the white berries of poison ivy. David Beaulieu

    Trying to identify poison ivy? If you don't feel confident basing identification solely on the leaves, you're in luck, if you can wait till the berries ripen.


    A distinguishing trait of poison ivy, taken in conjunction with the other identifying characteristics discussed in the present photo gallery, is the color of its mature berries. When they ripen (in late summer to early fall), they turn from a pale green to a whitish color.


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  • 09 of 30

    Picture of Poison Ivy Leaf

    Picture of poison ivy vine growing on a stone wall.
    Picture of poison ivy vines growing on a stone wall with their characteristic "leaflets of three". David Beaulieu

    So far, I've shown you pictures of the poison ivy leaf on plants trailing over the ground. But they can climb, too....


    The vines of Rhus radicans produce aerial roots that allow them to climb up rough surfaces. For instance, here it's plainly a vine, growing up a stone wall. This picture of poison ivy leaf again shows that the "leaves of three" warning is true. As you will see later in this photo gallery, however, similar plants also have three leaves, so you need to be armed with...MORE more than the traditional rhyme to identify poison ivy.


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  • 10 of 30

    Pictures of Poison Ivy -- Picture of Fall Foliage

    Image: dead tree covered with poison ivy in its fall color (orange).
    A wonderful fall foliage tree? No. This is merely a dead tree that has been covered by poison ivy. It's still a great autumn scene, but don't touch!. David Beaulieu

    One is tempted to ask, How can something that has caused as much suffering as has poison ivy have such a beautiful fall foliage...?


    The green summer color of poison ivy's foliage yields to brilliant fall foliage in red, yellow or orange. The autumn brilliance of poison ivy's foliage is due to the anthocyanin pigments characteristic of the plant family to which poison ivy belongs, namely, the cashew family (Anacardiaceae).


    Sometimes you will come across a poison ivy vine growing on a dead tree in...MORE fall and think that the brilliant fall foliage you are seeing is the tree's leaves (because, being dead, the tree lacks leaves of its own). On closer inspection (but not too close!), you will learn that it is the rash-causing vine that is responsible for all that wonderful color.


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  • 11 of 30

    Pictures of Poison Ivy - Autumn Foliage

    Image: poison ivy in the fall with a brick-red color.
    Poison ivy is rather pretty in fall, but be sure to admire it only from a distance!. David Beaulieu

    Earlier, I showed you the reddish spring foliage found in some young poison ivy plants. Well....


    Some poison ivy plants come "full circle," displaying a reddish fall foliage. In this -- and only this! -- regard, poison ivy reminds me of red maple trees. The latter display red buds in spring that hold a hint of what their gorgeous fall foliage will look like.


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  • 12 of 30

    Pictures of Poison Ivy - the Aerial Roots

    Have you wondered what those hairy vines are climbing up trees?
    Poison ivy's aerial roots are what allow it to scale trees and other objects. Many people fail to recognize these "hairy vines" as a source of danger. David Beaulieu

    Have you wondered what those hairy vines are climbing up trees...?


    That's poison ivy, the "hairs" being the vines' aerial roots. As you can see in this picture of the vine climbing a tree, it can cling so tightly to the trunk of a tree as to seem a part of it. It's only the aerial roots that give its identity away in this picture.


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  • 13 of 30

    Pictures of Poison Ivy -- "Beware of Vine!"

    Picture of poison ivy climbing a clapboard-sided house.
    Picture of poison ivy vine climbing a clapboard-sided building. David Beaulieu

    Forget the "Beware of dog!" sign for this property. Visitors should be warned, "Beware of vine!"


    You may be used to seeing Boston ivy or English ivy vines climbing buildings. But this picture shows poison ivy climbing a building. And it's not just bad news for anyone who comes too close to the structure. For, in addition, these vines are wreaking havoc with the building's clapboards.


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  • 14 of 30

    Pictures of Poison Ivy -- Leaves of Three, Let It Be

    This picture of poison ivy provides visual verification for the rhyme, 'Leaflets three, let it be.'
    This picture of poison ivy provides visual verification for the rhyme, "Leaflets three, let it be". David Beaulieu

    This closeup photo of a poison ivy leaf shows its classic tripartite structure (i.e., a poison ivy leaf is comprised of three leaflets).


    Poison ivy identification is often summed up with the maxim, "Leaves of three, let it be!" This poison ivy ID saying also appears in slightly different forms, including:


    • "Leaves of three, let them be!"
    • "Leaves of three, leave them be!"
    • "Leaves of three, leave it be!"
    • "Leaflets three, leave it be!"
    • "Leaflets three, leave them...MORE be!"
    • "Leaflets three, let it be!"
    • "Leaflets three, let them be!"

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  • 15 of 30

    Pictures of Poison Ivy Look-Alikes

    Picture showing foliage of young Virginia creeper, a poison ivy look-alike.
    Picture showing foliage of young Virginia creeper, a poison ivy look-alike. David Beaulieu

    Many people mistake other plants for poison ivy. Virginia creeper vines are among those plants....


    By speaking of "poison ivy look-alikes," I don't mean to imply that any of these plants look like poison ivy to me. But then again, I do a lot of gawking at weeds. For those less inclined to take a good, long look at our weedy friends, these pictures of poison ivy impostors should come in handy in helping you distinguish poison ivy from other weeds, thereby bettering your chances of avoiding it.


    This...MORE picture of the poison ivy look-alike, Virginia creeper, shows the young leaves of the latter.


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  • 16 of 30

    Vine Plants Similar to Poison Ivy: Virginia Creeper

    Virginia creeper is among the vine plants similar to poison ivy.
    Virginia creeper is among the vine plants similar to poison ivy. David Beaulieu

    Virginia creepers are vine plants similar to poison ivy. However, Virginia creeper's leaf has 5 leaflets....


    This picture of a poison ivy look-alike shows Virginia creeper, with mature leaves, climbing a concrete post. Notwithstanding Virginia creeper's leaf of five leaflets -- as distinct from poison ivy's signature trio of leaflets -- many people perceive these vine plants to be similar to poison ivy. If you were walking briskly past a patch of Virginia creepers, the mistake would be...MORE understandable, as you might not be able to readily determine the number of leaflets without slowing down.


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  • 17 of 30

    Pictures of Vines Mistaken for Poison Ivy

    Picture showing the buds of Virginia creeper.
    Picture showing the flower buds of Virginia creeper. David Beaulieu

    The picture below shows how Virginia creeper forms flower buds....


    For the sake of comparison with poison ivy (so that you don't mistake the two vines), refer back to the earlier picture in this photo gallery, showing poison ivy flower buds.


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  • 18 of 30

    Pictures of Vines Mistaken for Poison Ivy

    Picture of Virginia creeper flowers.
    Picture of Virginia creeper flowers. David Beaulieu

    Like poison ivy, Virginia creeper produces flowers....


    And also like poison ivy, Virginia creeper's flowers are unimpressive.


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  • 19 of 30

    Pictures of Vines Mistaken for Poison Ivy

    Picture showing Virginia creeper berry, a food source for wild birds.
    Picture showing Virginia creeper berry. This blue fruit is a food source for wild birds. David Beaulieu

    In addition to producing attractive fall foliage in autumn, Virginia creeper also bears delightful blueberries.


    Much more striking than the berry of poison ivy, Virginia creeper berries also serve as food for wild birds.


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  • 20 of 30

    Pictures of Vines Mistaken for Poison Ivy

    Virginia creepers are climbing vines often seen climbing telephone poles.
    Virginia creepers are climbing vines often seen climbing telephone poles. David Beaulieu

    Don't be fooled by the name, "Virginia creepers." Not that there's anything misleading about the first half of that name, as they are, in fact, natives of the state of Virginia in the U.S....


    But Virginia creepers are not really "creepers;" rather, they are climbers. Want proof? Just look at the picture.


    Virginia creepers are rather attractive plants. Growing to great heights, they are the vines that, in the regions to which they are native, people will often notice climbing telephone poles on...MORE their own.


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  • 21 of 30

    Pictures of Vines Mistaken for Poison Ivy

    The autumn foliage of Virginia creeper vine varies, but is often red or reddish-orange.
    The autumn foliage of Virginia creeper varies but is often red or reddish-orange. David Beaulieu

    Like poison ivy, Virginia creeper puts on quite a show with its autumn foliage....


    This picture of the poison ivy look-alike, Virginia creeper vine, shows what the autumn foliage of the wild vines looks like.


    There are also cultivars of Virginia creeper available for sale in the nursery trade. For example, Proven Winners has put out a cultivar named 'Red Wall.' They describe the autumn foliage color as "bright red."


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  • 22 of 30

    Pictures of Vines Mistaken for Poison Ivy

    New Boston ivy leaves superficially resemble poison ivy.
    Picture: New Boston ivy leaves. David Beaulieu

    The leaves of new Boston ivy vines start out reddish in spring, like poison ivy leaves....


    Because its new leaves start out reddish in spring, like those of some poison ivy plants, folks may mistake Boston ivy for poison ivy. The fact that the new leaves of Boston ivy are relatively small doesn't help in this regard, as you would have to take a close look at them to make a proper identification.


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  • 23 of 30

    Pictures of Vines Mistaken for Poison Ivy

    Picture showing Boston ivy leaves when young.
    Picture showing Boston ivy leaves when young. David Beaulieu

    The shape of Boston ivy leaves is not consistent....


    While some of its leaves are "entire," forming a single leaf, with three slightly indented lobes (as in the prior picture), other Boston ivy leaves are deeply indented (as in the picture above) or even compound, with three leaflets. When such Boston ivy leaves are young and have a reddish color, they resemble poison ivy.


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  • 24 of 30

    Pictures of Vines Mistaken for Poison Ivy

    The
    The "leaflets 3" rhyme that helps you remember what poison ivy looks like isn't perfect, as Boston ivy demonstrates. David Beaulieu

    The "leaflets 3" rhyme that helps you remember what poison ivy looks like is helpful, but....


    As already mentioned, Boston ivy leaves, too, can take the shape of "leaflets 3."


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  • 25 of 30

    Pictures of Vines Mistaken for Poison Ivy

    Picture of Boston ivy leaf.
    Picture of Boston ivy leaf. The new foliage is tinged with red. David Beaulieu

    Remember the color changes in Rhus radicans vines shown in my poison ivy pictures on Page 1...?


    Well, new leaves of Boston ivy vines start out reddish in spring, then lose some of that red on the way to turning green in summer.


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  • 26 of 30

    Pictures of Vines Mistaken for Poison Ivy

    Boston ivy foliage picture.
    Picture: Mature leaf of Boston ivy. Its summer foliage is green in color. David Beaulieu

    The mature leaves of Boston ivy are green in the summer....


    The picture above shows a Boston ivy leaf that is 3-lobed, with relatively slight indentations, looking rather like a maple leaf.


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  • 27 of 30

    Pictures of Vines Mistaken for Poison Ivy

    Fall foliage photo of Boston ivy.
    Fall foliage photo of Boston ivy. David Beaulieu

    The fall foliage of Boston ivy vines can be breathtaking. Boston ivy can also climb, affording it excellent opportunities to display that fall foliage...


    Like poison ivy vines (and Virginia creeper vines, for that matter), the leaves of Boston ivy vines have a reddish fall foliage. This picture shows Boston ivy in its signature setting: climbing a brick building.


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  • 28 of 30

    Pictures of Vines Mistaken for Poison Ivy

    Picture of young leaf from an English ivy vine.
    Picture of young leaf from an English ivy vine. David Beaulieu

    The leaf of English ivy vines is lobed, not compound....


    Their lobed leaf-type helps distinguish English ivy, shown in the picture above, from poison ivy's leaf, which has 3 distinct leaflets joined by stems.


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  • 29 of 30

    Pictures of Vines Mistaken for Poison Ivy

    The older leaves of English ivy vines are dark green.
    The older leaves of English ivy vines are dark green. David Beaulieu

    English ivy foliage doesn't change as dramatically with the seasons as does the foliage of the other vines I consider in this photo gallery....


    However, older leaves on English ivy vines sometimes become a darker green, as this picture shows.


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  • 30 of 30

    Pictures of Vines Mistaken for Poison Ivy

    Photo of English ivy vines climbing wall.
    Picture: English ivy vines climbing a wall. David Beaulieu

    Like poison ivy vines, English ivy vines can climb....


    English ivy vines (Hedera helix) are often seen climbing the walls of old brick buildings, as this photo shows. If you are having trouble telling Hedera helix apart from Rhus radicans, please return to the beginning of this photo gallery to see my poison ivy pictures.