Poison Ivy Pictures and Identification Tips

Poison Ivy

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Identifying Poison Ivy

You can help kids avoid poison ivy by showing them where it is and what it looks like...
You can help kids avoid poison ivy by showing them where it is and what it looks like. Vincent Iannelli, MD

Review pictures of poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac, so that you can identify and avoid them, and see what kind of rashes that poison ivy can cause.

Do your kids know how to identify and avoid poison ivy? This preschooler is pointing to some poison ivy growing onto a tree so that he knows to avoid it.

There are usually two basic types of kids with poison ivy:

  • the one who has poison ivy for the first time and the parents are actually surprised that the rash is poison ivy,
  • those who keep getting poison ivy over and over again.

You can help your kids avoid poison ivy by teaching them what it looks like (review our pictures of poison ivy if you aren't sure yourself) and pointing it out in your neighborhood and wherever they play.

To be safe, wear long pants and a shirt with long sleeves, boots, and gloves, to minimize the chance that you will accidentally be exposed to poison ivy as you go looking for it and are pointing it out to your kids.

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Getting Into Poison Ivy

Getting into poison ivy is easy...
Getting into poison ivy is easy. Vincent Iannelli, MD

Poison ivy growing in a tree line near a pond is almost like a magnet for kids out playing.

Why do some kids get poison ivy so easily?

It isn't hard to imagine, as you see these preschool age twins exploring near this pond and tree line...

If they aren't careful, they will almost certainly get into this patch of poison ivy growing on this tree.

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Poison Ivy Near a Log?

Is that poison ivy growing near this log?
Is that poison ivy growing near this log?. Vincent Iannelli, MD

Is that poison ivy growing near this log?

Although there is a lot of poison ivy in this area that you can't see, there isn't any growing near this preschooler sitting on this log.

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Poison Ivy Rash - Poison Ivy Rash Picture

The classic rash of poison ivy on a child's arm.
The classic rash of poison ivy on a child's arm. Vincent Iannelli, MD

It is usually not hard to identify a child with a poison ivy rash, especially a classic case of poison ivy.

Kids with a classic poison ivy rash might also have a history of a known exposure to poison ivy after a camping trip, hike in the woods, or ​a day at the lake.

After exposure to the leaves, stems, or roots of a poison ivy plant, children develop symptoms of poison ivy within 8 hours to a week or so, including:

  • an intensely itchy rash
  • red bumps that often are in a straight line or streaks, from where the poison ivy plant had contact with your child's skin
  • vesicles and blisters that are filled with fluid

Keep in mind that children exposed to poison sumac and poison oak, other members of the genus Rhus or Toxicodendron, can get these same symptoms that are generically referred to as poison ivy symptoms above.

Other characteristic signs and symptoms of poison ivy are that the rash will worsen over days or weeks without treatment with steroids, the rash may not go away for up to three weeks without treatment, many children will have worsening symptoms with each exposure, and that some areas of a child's skin that had less exposure to the poison ivy plant will get the rash later than others.

Sources:

Habif: Clinical Dermatology, 4th ed.

Rhus (Toxicodendron) dermatitis. Tanner TL - Prim Care - 01-JUN-2000; 27(2): 493-502

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Poison Ivy Rash - Picture of Poison Ivy Rash

A poison ivy rash, even when it isn't bad, can be extremely itchy.
A poison ivy rash, even when it isn't bad, can be extremely itchy. Vincent Iannelli, MD

A picture of a child with a bad poison ivy rash might motivate your kids to avoid poison ivy...

This child had a bad poison ivy rash, with red bumps, vesicles, and blisters, in a straight line or streaks, from where the poison ivy plant had contact with her leg.

Why is it so hard to teach kids to avoid poison ivy?

Mostly because it is simply so much fun to play in the areas where poison ivy grows, along trails, ponds, and lakes.

Also, the old "leaves​ of three, let it be" phrase isn't usually enough to help kids avoid poison ivy.

Instead, review some pictures of poison ivy so that they really know what to look for. Since poison oak and poison sumac can trigger the same rash, knowing how to recognize and avoid these plants is important too.

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Poison Ivy on the Ground

Poison Ivy on the Ground
Poison ivy on the ground. Vincent Iannelli, MD

Here is another good reason to always wear shoes when walking around outside, poison ivy growing on the ground, mixed in among these weeds.

When you are looking out for poison ivy, remember that poison ivy isn't always growing into trees and onto fence posts, etc.

Sometimes it is simply growing on the ground.

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Poison Ivy Warning Sign

Poison Ivy Warning Sign
Valerie Loiseleux

An easy way to avoid poison ivy is to simply look for posted warning or caution signs like this one that says "Caution Poison Ivy."

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Poison Ivy Closeup Picture

Poison Ivy Closeup Picture
Vincent Iannelli, MD

A nice closeup picture of poison ivy.

View the classic "leaves of three" appearance of poison ivy in this closeup picture, including red stems and green berries.

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Picture of a Poison Ivy Rash

Picture of a Poison Ivy Rash
Poison ivy rash. CDC

View a photo of the typical rash that people get after being exposed to poison ivy.

The picture above shows the classic blistering poison ivy rash that people get after having contact with poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac.

Other poison ivy symptoms can include:

  • an intensely itchy rash
  • red bumps that often are in a straight line or streaks, from where the poison ivy plant had contact with your child's skin
  • vesicles and blisters that are filled with fluid

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Poison Ivy Plant

Poison Ivy Plant
Poison ivy plant. Vincent Iannelli, MD

A picture of a poison ivy plant growing at the base of an old wood fence post.

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Poison Ivy Plants

Poison Ivy Plants Growing in the Yard
Poison ivy plants. Dr. Edwin P. Ewing, Jr./CDC

Poison ivy plants growing in a well-groomed yard in Atlanta, Georgia.

This picture of poison ivy plants is a good reminder that poison ivy can grow almost anywhere. We all expect that poison ivy will be growing along trails, lakes, and in the woods, but we don't expect to have it in our own back yard.

In the above poison ivy picture, you can see the poison ivy plants growing next to the grass and over the path that could be leading to their front door. Unfortunately, an unsuspecting homeowner might think that this is just a regular vine and not poison ivy. That could get a nasty poison ivy rash if they try to pull it out without taking precautions, or if they simply leave it there have contact with it day after day.

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Poison Ivy

Poison Ivy
Poison ivy. Vincent Iannelli, MD

A nice picture of a poison ivy plant.

This picture demonstrates a lot of things you should look for to help you identify and avoid poison ivy, including:

  • three leaflets ("leaves of three, let it be")
  • the middle leaflet has a longer stalk (petiole) than the other two
  • leaflets are fatter near their base
  • elliptical leaflets with slight lobes
  • leaflets are all about the same size
  • no thorns along the stem
  • clusters of green or white berries may be present
  • aerial roots may be visible on the stem

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Poison Oak

Atlantic Poison Oak
Atlantic poison oak. Robert H. Mohlenbrock/USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database/USDA SCS. 1991

Get help identify poison oak with this picture showing the classic cluster of three oak-like leaves.

In general, according to the USDA Forest Service, Atlantic or eastern poison oak can be found growing "from New Jersey to Florida, west to eastern Texas, and north to southeastern Kansas."

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Is This Poison Ivy?

Is This Poison Ivy?
Larry Skahill

Is this poison ivy?

No, this is not poison ivy.

It is Virginia creeper, which is growing on an old barn in Pennsylvania.

Virginia Creeper is often confused with poison ivy. Note the groups of 5 leaflets, instead of the more characteristic "leaves of three" configuration of poison ivy.

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Leaves from a Poison Ivy Bush

Leaves from a Poison Ivy Bush
Leaves from a poison ivy bush. John J. Mosesso/NBII

A picture of a grouping of leaves from a poison ivy plant in Virginia.

These poison ivy leaves have the classic "leaves of three" configuration.

It is interesting to note that not all of the leaves have the classic notched appearance and some do appear smooth, which can confuse some people.

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Poison Sumac

Poison Sumac
Poison sumac. Robert H. Mohlenbrock/USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database/USDA SCS. 1991

Get help identifying and avoiding poison sumac by viewing this picture of poison sumac, showing the end of the classic seven to 13 smooth-edged leaflets.

Poison sumac grows as a shrub in boggy areas in the eastern United States.

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Leaves from a Poison Ivy Plant

Leaves from a Poison Ivy Plant
Leaves from a poison ivy plant. John J. Mosesso/NBII

View these leaves from a poison ivy plant to help you identify and avoid poison ivy.

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Poison Ivy

Eastern Poison Ivy
Eastern poison ivy. Robert H. Mohlenbrock/USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database/USDA SCS. 1991

Another photo of a poison ivy plant.

It is interesting to note that these poison ivy leaves look a lot different than the other poison ivy plants we have shown. That is an important reminder that poison ivy can look like a lot of different plants and you should try to remember its main characteristics instead of trying to memorize ​specific poison ivy pictures if you really want to avoid it.

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Poison Oak Rash - Poison Oak Rash Picture

A poison oak rash can be confused with the rash caused by poison ivy or poison sumac.
A poison oak rash can be confused with the rash caused by poison ivy or poison sumac. CDC

A picture of a classic poison oak rash, a blistering rash that you can get after having contact with poison oak.

This poison oak rash is similar to the rash caused by poison ivy and poison sumac.

A classic case of poison oak might include a child with a known exposure to poison oak after a camping trip, hike in the woods, or ​a day at the lake, who then develops a red, itchy rash all over his body a few days later.

Like poison ivy and poison sumac, poison oak is a member of the Rhus or Toxicodendron genus of plants. Unlike poison ivy, which is usually found growing as a vine or shrub east of the Rocky Mountains along trails, ponds, and lakes, poison oak usually grows as a bush or climbing vine in the western United States.

Urushiol is the chemical in all of these plants that causes the typical allergic reaction and symptoms of a poison oak rash.

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Eastern Poison Ivy

Eastern Poison Ivy
Eastern poison ivy. Jennifer Anderson/USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database

The classic "leaves of three, let it be" configuration of a poison ivy plant.

This form of eastern poison ivy is found in most of the eastern United States, including all states from Texas up to South Dakota and eastward.

In addition to having three leaflets, note that the middle leaflet has a longer stalk (petiole) than the other two, another characteristic of poison ivy.

Other characteristics of poison ivy that you can see:

  • leaves that are fatter near their base
  • elliptical leaves with slight lobes
  • leaves are all about the same size
  • no thorns along the stem

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Poison Oak on a Cedar Tree

Poison Oak on a Cedar Tree
Poison oak on a cedar tree. Dwight Smith

A picture of Poison Oak in bud growing on a cedar tree.

Like poison ivy, poison oak usually grows in clusters of three leaves.

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Is This Poison Ivy?

Is This Poison Ivy?
Vincent Iannelli, MD

No, this isn't poison ivy.

Instead of a vine growing on the tree, a characteristic of poison ivy, this is more like a sucker of the tree. It also doesn't have the characteristic 'leaves of three' configuration, and instead, has a long grouping of alternating leaves along the stem.

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Poison Ivy and English Ivy

Poison Ivy and English Ivy
Kenneth Sponsler

Poison ivy plants growing out of a patch of English ivy near a wood post.

Can you tell which plant is the poison ivy and which is the English ivy?

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Is This Poison Ivy?

Is This Poison Ivy?
Vincent Iannelli, MD

No, this is not poison ivy.

The groupings of 5 leaflets are the big give away that this is not poison ivy.

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Is This Poison Ivy?

Is This Poison Ivy?
Vincent Iannelli, MD

There are a lot of different things growing here, but the plants in the middle are poison ivy.

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Is This Poison Ivy?

Is This Poison Ivy?
Vincent Iannelli, MD

No, this is not poison ivy. It doesn't even have any of the characteristics of poison ivy, so would likely not be confused with poison ivy.

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Is This Poison Ivy?

Is This Poison Ivy?
Vincent Iannelli, MD

Yes, this is poison ivy growing along the ground in North Texas.

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Is This Poison Ivy?

Is This Poison Ivy?
Vincent Iannelli, MD

Yes, this is a nice patch of poison ivy in North Texas.

Note the characteristic "leaves of three" appearance and the fact that the middle stalk is a little longer than the others, and that the base of the leaves is fat and then narrows at the end of the leaf.

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Avoiding Poison Ivy

Avoiding Poison Ivy

A simple sign like this can help you warn others away from parts of your yard that might have poison ivy growing in it.

You can help people avoid poison ivy in your yard or along trails by posting simple signs warning them that poison ivy is growing there. That way, everyone doesn't have to take the time to try to figure out where the poison ivy is, or figure it out the hard way after they get a poison ivy rash.

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Is This Poison Ivy?

Is This Poison Ivy?
Vincent Iannnelli, MD

No, this plant really doesn't have any of the characteristics of poison ivy.

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Is This Poison Ivy?

Is This Poison Ivy?
Vincent Iannelli, MD

Yes, this is poison ivy.

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Poison Ivy Berries

Poison Ivy Berries
Vincent Iannelli, MD

Looking the green grape-like clusters of berries is another good way to spot poison ivy.

Poison Ivy plants often have small, round berries in the summer and early fall. They are green at first but then turn a creamy white color. They grow in grape-like clusters.

Birds often eat the berries and this is an important way that poison ivy spreads from one area to another, as birds pick up and drop the berries in different areas.

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Poison Ivy Roots

Aerial Roots of Poison Ivy
Vincent Iannelli, MD

View the aerial roots that allow poison ivy plants to cling to trees, fences, and other objects.

In reality, you usually shouldn't be getting so close to a poison ivy plant so that you are looking for the aerial roots if you are trying to identify a plant and figure out if it is poison ivy or not...

If you spot aerial roots on a plant that has all of the other characteristics of poison ivy, then you can be sure that you have correctly identified a poison ivy plant. They are not usually easy to see though, so don't use the roots as one of the main things you look for though when trying to avoid poison ivy.

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Roots of Poison Ivy

Aerial Roots of Poison Ivy
Vincent Iannelli, MD

View the aerial roots of poison ivy.

I carefully pulled this poison ivy plant away from this tree to expose these aerial roots that the poison ivy plant uses to cling to whatever it is growing on.

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Is This Poison Ivy?

Is This Poison Ivy?
Vincent Iannelli, MD

Keep in mind that there are actually two plants growing here, one is more upright and the other is growing out to the side...

The plant that is growing out to the side isn't poison ivy. It isn't growing in a "leaves of three" configuration, the leaves don't look like poison ivy leaves, and it has those tendrils growing out of the stem.

However, the more upright plant does look like poison ivy.

It also looks like there is a lot of poison ivy growing in the background.

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Poison Ivy Plant

Poison Ivy Plant
Vincent Iannelli, MD

A very large patch of poison ivy growing up onto a tree.

This is a good example of why you want to stick to trails! Imagine hiking through the woods right through a large patch of poison ivy like this...

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Young Poison Ivy Plant

Young Poison Ivy Plant
Vincent Iannelli, MD

View the new growth on a poison ivy plant.

View the new growth on a poison ivy plant. Note how it is lighter in color than the deeper green of the older leaves on this poison ivy plant, a characteristic of poison ivy plants.

Keep in mind that the new growth on poison ivy plants is often red or reddish brown in many parts of the country.

Note how the poison ivy plant is creeping up this wood post. An unsuspecting hiker could easily sit down on this post for a short rest and get a poison ivy rash all over his legs. It is a good reminding to keep your eyes open if you want to avoid poison ivy when you are outdoors.

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Poison Ivy

Poison Ivy
Vincent Iannelli, MD

A closeup picture of poison ivy.

A closeup picture of poison ivy showing the classic leaves of three configuration and some clusters of green berries in the background.

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Is This Poison Ivy?

Is This Poison Ivy?
Vincent Iannelli, MD

Let's see. We have a plant growing in a "leaves of three" configuration with clusters of green berries...

Yes, I think that is poison ivy.

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Is This Poison Ivy?

Is This Poison Ivy?
Vincent Iannelli, MD

There are a lot of different things growing here, but the question is about the main plant in the foreground with the thorns on the stem...

The fact that poison ivy doesn't have thorns makes this one easy, but I wouldn't sit on that wood post! There is plenty of poison ivy visible in the background...

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Poison Ivy Habitat

Poison Ivy Habitat
Vincent Iannelli, MD

View a favorite growing spot or habitat for poison ivy around this lake.

If you want to avoid poison ivy, in addition to learning what it looks like, you should learn where it likes to grow and avoid those areas. So stick to paths, trails, etc., and avoid shortcuts through the woods, which might save you some time, but will likely get you a poison ivy rash.

Keep in mind that 'wild' areas like this are very tempting spots for kids to go off playing and exploring, so do a little exploring of your own first to make sure that they are free of poison ivy or make them off-limits to your kids.

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Avoiding Poison Ivy

Avoiding Poison Ivy
Vincent Iannelli, MD

To avoid poison ivy, in addition to learning how to identify what it looks like, it can help to avoid places where poison ivy likes to grow, such as along trails like this and around lakes.

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Is This Poison Ivy?

Is This Poison Ivy?
Vincent Iannelli, MD

You might not give the green leaves a second though, but what about that older stem between the tree and wood post with the hairy roots growing out of it? Could that be some old poison ivy?

It could be, especially considering the amount of poison ivy growing in this area...

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Is This Poison Ivy?

Is This Poison Ivy?
Vincent Iannelli, MD

View an invasive ivy in this Carolina Jessamine plant and decide if it is poison ivy.

The main plant growing on this wrought iron fence is Carolina Jessamine.

I'm not sure of the official name of the other vine that has invaded my Carolina Jessamine plant, but fortunately, it isn't poison ivy. Without a 'leaves of three' configuration, it likely wouldn't even be confused with poison ivy by most people.

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Poison Ivy Trail

Poison Ivy Trail
Vincent Iannelli, MD

Poison ivy often likes to grow along the edge of trails and along fence lines like this.

Do you often wonder where poison ivy likes to grow? Good spots to look for poison ivy include the edge of paths and trails, around ponds and lakes, and along tree and fence lines.

To avoid poison ivy, teach your kids to stick to marked roads and paths and not wander beyond them into more wild areas, where poison ivy may be growing.

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Poison Ivy Patch

Poison Ivy Patch
Vincent Iannelli, MD

View a poison ivy patch growing at the base of a tree in North Texas.

This patch of poison ivy growing at the base of a tree, demonstrates a common way that you can find poison ivy growing.

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Is This Poison Ivy?

Is This Poison Ivy?
Vincent Iannelli, MD

Except for being green, this patch of leaves really has nothing in common with poison ivy...

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Poison Ivy Pictures

Poison Ivy Picture
Vincent Iannelli, MD

View a picture of poison ivy growing on a tree in North Texas.

Poison ivy growing on a tree in North Texas.

Note the new growth at the end of this poison ivy plant.

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Poison Ivy Growing Wild

Poison Ivy Growing Wild
Vincent Iannelli, MD

You can see a lot of poison ivy growing along this road and behind the fence line.

Sticking to roads and trails and not going into wild areas can help you avoid poison ivy.

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Is This Poison Ivy?

Is This Poison Ivy?
Vincent Iannelli, MD

Remember, not every vine or ivy that is growing wild in your garden is going to be poison ivy.

And no, this is not poison ivy.

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Poison Ivy on a Tree

Poison Ivy on a Tree
Vincent Iannelli, MD

View a picture of poison ivy growing on a tree.

It is easy to imagine a child climbing this tree and getting poison ivy, and a poison ivy rash, all over his body.

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