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Poison Ivy

May 23rd, 2011

We have poison ivy growing all around the property here at Chiot’s Run. We’re surrounded by woods, so it has the perfect habitat to thrive. I don’t mind so much because it is a beautiful plant and thankfully I’m not allergic and neither is Mr Chiots.

Poison ivy (toxicodendron radicans) grows throughout most of the United States and Canada. It is mostly found in wooded areas and along the edge of the woods, although it can grow in open areas as well.
Learning to identify poison ivy is quite easy. It is a good idea to learn to identify this plant even if you never hike or think you’ll be exposed to it. Look for three shiny smooth almond shaped leaves fanning out to form it’s distinctive trifolate shape. The leaflets alternate on the vine. The poison ivy that grows in my gardens emerges in the spring with beautiful tiny shiny red leaves.
I don’t aggressively try to eradicate poison ivy from my gardens. I believe all plants have a purpose and a place. I do pull out any plants that grow close the house, or along the walkways where people might come into contact with it just in case. I would hate for a visitor to go home with a terrible allergic reaction.

Poison ivy is beautiful in the fall, it turns a lovely shade of red and yellow. That’s one of the reasons I leave it in the surrounding woods.

Are you allergic to poison ivy? Do you have any growing in your gardens?

40 Comments to “Poison Ivy”
  1. KimH on May 23, 2011 at 5:17 am

    I dont believe Im terribly allergic to poison ivy.. I havent had a breakout in many many years. I used to live where it grew by the tons and would pull it out by hand before I realized what it is.. and still never broke out.. Either I was real lucky or I had enough dirt & grime on my hands to protect me. I never take any chances either.. I avoid it like the plague these days. ;)

    I prefer Virginia Creeper to Poison Ivy for beautiful woodland vines.. It has 5 leaflets instead of 3 and many people believe its Poison Ivy..

    Reply to KimH's comment

    • Susy on May 23, 2011 at 8:12 am

      I have some Virginia Creeper growing on part of our fence, it is beautiful as well – especially in the fall!

      Reply to Susy's comment

  2. Ronda on May 23, 2011 at 6:27 am

    My husband and I are both highly allergic to it. We have had super bad cases of it. That is why some of our flower beds/landscaping suffers…neither one of us wants to get it again! Beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder…it gives us the willies! :o) Just the thought…that we might get it again. We did some clearing yesterday…and we’re “hoping” we didn’t get into any. We’re hoping we can find someone like you two to help us with some of the clearing. It truly is a blessing to “not” be sensitive to it. Believe me…it’s no fun! If you’re ever interested in heading PA way, we could put you to work! Ha! Just teasing. ;o)

    Reply to Ronda's comment

  3. kristin @ going country on May 23, 2011 at 6:52 am

    Yeah, we’re all allergic. We mostly have it on our lakeshore, though, where there’s a strip of woods, so it’s pretty easy to avoid here.

    Reply to kristin @ going country's comment

  4. Misti on May 23, 2011 at 6:54 am

    Where I work we have this weird five leaved p.i. It’s not Virginia creeper, it is definitely p.i. but sometimes it looks so weird it throws us off.

    I’m not too allergic, the husband is now getting some on his nose, though!

    Reply to Misti's comment

  5. Kat on May 23, 2011 at 7:00 am

    I’m not sure if I am or not. I always try and either avoid it or wash up really well after touching some. I guess I’ll figure out one of these days!

    Also, don’t forget to add that the berries are a favorite of many birds, too! And despite how small and poisonous their flowers are right now, the tiny blooms can be very pretty as well. Are any of your vines blooming yet?

    Reply to Kat's comment

    • Susy on May 23, 2011 at 12:24 pm

      I’ve never seen the blooms or the berries, but I’ve never really looked for them. I must keep an eye out for them!

      Reply to Susy's comment

  6. Rhonda on May 23, 2011 at 7:01 am

    Ohhhhhhh yes. I’m allergic. I’ve had 3 trips to the hospital because of it and two of the times I hadn’t even actually touched it, neighbors had been burning branches and poison ivy was in the pile. I got a reaction just from the smoke. Weirdness! Oh, wait, that’s not the weirdest … I went to a surprise party once and we had to park around the corner so our friend wouldn’t see our car. We stopped the car and I opened my door and noticed there was poison ivy all around so I said, “we’re going to have to move, I can’t get out of the car” So we did. I had never stepped out of the car, never touched anything at all, BUT by the end of the party I had an itchy rash. The next morning it was gone. Holy psychosomatic episodes, Batman! :-)

    Reply to Rhonda's comment

    • Joshua on May 23, 2011 at 12:26 pm

      Burning poison ivy was incredibly careless of your neighbors! You can actually get a much worse reaction from inhaling the burning vapors than from touching it. If you think about it, burning and inhaling is a very direct way of getting chemicals into the human body, which is why people smoke cigarettes and other drugs.

      Reply to Joshua's comment

      • Susy on May 23, 2011 at 3:29 pm

        I agree with Joshua – very careless of your neighbors to burn it!

        to Susy's comment

  7. Katherine on May 23, 2011 at 7:11 am

    I never used to be sensitive to poison ivy. It was always around my house as a kid and I never got it. Fast forward to my adult years and now I get awful patchescevery summer – and without my touching the stuff. My cats walk past it and bring in the oils on their fur. I always get it in my forearms. Reminds me it’s time to go eradicate it again!

    Reply to Katherine's comment

  8. Barbara on May 23, 2011 at 7:38 am

    I remember as a kid, proudly picking my mom a HUGE bouquet that was met with screams – because it was full of poison ivy. Mom waited for the inevitable eruptions to burst forth on my hands and arms, but nothing ever happened. I’m either not allergic to it, or everyone mis-identified the plant. ;)

    Reply to Barbara's comment

    • KimH on May 23, 2011 at 6:56 pm

      Or maybe God Above decided that since you were such a beautiful soul gifting your mama with a bouquet of love, you’d be spared.. this time. ;)

      Reply to KimH's comment

  9. Melissa on May 23, 2011 at 7:55 am

    We have poison oak everywhere around here. The park we like to walk at is covered with it if you go off the trail. Makes my husband itch just walking past it!

    Reply to Melissa's comment

  10. Kat on May 23, 2011 at 10:00 am

    I’d never had poison ivy, but since I’m staring work on an Urban Demonstration Farm next year, I’ve been assured that I’ll get it. Some of your pictures look like young box elder, though–which looks similar to poison ivy, but with leaves that are slightly more jagged…

    Reply to Kat's comment

    • Susy on May 23, 2011 at 11:02 am

      We do have box elders growing in the lot beside us and I see saplings growing in the garden occasionally – I always rip those out as tiny trees are the most prolific weeds when you’re surrounded by woods.

      Perhaps one of my images is a young box elder tree, I’d have to go out and double check as I snapped most of these images quickly other day before the rain came. They’re very similar when young.

      I’ll head out after the rain a see if I can get some better images of the red poison ivy leaves so as not to confuse.

      Reply to Susy's comment

      • Kat on May 23, 2011 at 3:23 pm

        A few weeks ago, a guide led a group around Beardsley farm (where I’ll be working) and identified plants for us. Most of them were things in our butterfly garden that people had questions about, but someone asked him to point out poison ivy. We came upon something that looked quite like poison ivy, but he assured us that it was a box elder–to prove it, he ripped a cluster of leaves off and rubbed them vigorously all over his face.

        You can imagine everyone’s horrified reaction! It was a good lesson, but–like I said–since I’ve never had it before, I’m staying away from anything that looks remotely like it!

        to Kat's comment

      • Susy on May 23, 2011 at 3:27 pm

        Good idea – all it takes is once. And depending on where you live the leaves can be different. The leaves on our poison ivy here in our garden little slightly different from the leaves down at the family hunting cabin.

        to Susy's comment

  11. Daedre Craig on May 23, 2011 at 10:10 am

    You may not be allergic now, but be careful! After repeated exposure you can become allergic. You can go from no response after one exposure to in the hospital a couple exposures later.

    Reply to Daedre Craig's comment

    • Susy on May 23, 2011 at 11:06 am

      I have read that, I avoid it when working when I can and I always wearing gloves and wash up after pulling it out – but I don’t go out of my way to eradicate it completely.

      Sometimes I notice a patch along the edges of the path I walk daily and I know it has been brushing my legs as I passed for months before I see it. I then pull it out so others don’t get exposed to it.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  12. Barbara on May 23, 2011 at 10:34 am

    I am so allergic that just your pictures of it made me cringe and hide my eyes. Last year (one of the hottest in memory) I broke out from scalp to toenails after working in my garden for a while on a breezy afternoon. According to the doctor, it someone was burning it or if they were perhaps bulldozing some land (like for the umpteen housing developments continuously going up around us), then the oil could have been picked up by the wind and carried several MILES – to land on me out of the blue. I won’t stop gardening (or going outside) but poison ivy costs me time, money and misery every. single. summer! Oh how I hate the stuff!

    Reply to Barbara's comment

  13. Donna B. on May 23, 2011 at 10:38 am

    How funny… Because this weekend I had my first interaction with Poison Ivy! In all my years growing up in Kentucky, I never once got it [my mom did tho, and I remember buying tons of bottles of chamomile lotion!] and I never knew if I was allergic… low and behold – a walk in the woods on Saturday with my dog and I went to admire a Jack-in-the-Pulpit and right next to it was a little baby Poison Ivy vine… I think I barely grazed it. Little patch of it inbetween my index-and-middle finger… it’s itchy, but not terribly so [the stings on my face hurt more… no idea where they came from] so I don’t think I’m allergic.
    This post is so ironic – I love the plant too. Alas I have a huge patch growing right up against my fence… I need to get rid of it eventually that way my boyfriend won’t get in contact while he mows the lawn…

    Reply to Donna B.'s comment

  14. Jaspenelle on May 23, 2011 at 11:51 am

    I am anaphylaxically allergic to poison ivy, lucky it is not common in my area. I am also allergic to mangoes and while those might not seem related, they both contain urushiol (though in much smaller quantities) which is what causes the contact-dermatitis poison ivy gives you.

    That said, I think it is a very pretty plant, just better appreciated at a distance (through my screen is nice… ^^) by me.

    Reply to Jaspenelle's comment

  15. Joshua on May 23, 2011 at 12:28 pm

    I am definitely allergic to poison ivy. I haven’t had an exposure in years, but this last month, I built an electric perimeter fence all around my property, and there is one corner that I dread going to work on because every time I come back, I have a few more spots. I guess it’s not the worst, because it doesn’t put me in the hospital or anything, but I definitely break out with itchy spots that take a while to heal. No matter how careful I am, some seems to get on me somehow.

    Reply to Joshua's comment

  16. deedee on May 23, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    i’ve never had it. it grew up the walls of our old building, and it seemed like nick would get it just walking by the plant! his eyes would swell shut until he had to go get a shot. i could roll in it and probably not get it:) we now have some growing up the side of our house that no one spends much time on… we keep saying i need to take it down, but i just haven’t gotten around to it yet.

    Reply to deedee's comment

  17. Gwyn Fincher on May 23, 2011 at 3:15 pm

    Does anyone know how to get rid of it without using chemicals or pulling by hand?

    Reply to Gwyn Fincher's comment

    • Susy on May 23, 2011 at 3:26 pm

      Find a friend who isn’t allergic to come pull it by hand! There are “organic” herbicides that you could try instead of chemicals ones. It would most likely work best when sprayed young, especially in spring and probably must be done a few times for it to work.

      Reply to Susy's comment

    • bonnie on May 23, 2011 at 9:30 pm

      I have wondered that, too. I have not been particularly allergic in the past, but a year or two ago when I was trying to carefully pull up some by wearing gloves and wrapping newspaper around the roots, I managed to get a small rash on my forearm. Boy did it itch!!
      I think this is one thing I will use a chemical on. That won’t work for organic purists, but for those who are “mostly organic,” it might be one of the exceptions.

      Reply to bonnie's comment

  18. Michele on May 23, 2011 at 3:37 pm


    I love this blog….I was the one if you check your site meter that has gone through almost every single page. My husband and I live in northern Ohio about a mile from the lake, 40 minutes west of Cleveland, it is amazing to see the difference in growing from one area to another.

    Ivy, Sumac, not sure about Oak….Neighbors have it next door, it creeps into our yard and we cut it back. The ivy is then bagged and rid of. The day they cut it down with the lawn mower – no bag – I closed the windows and wouldn’t venture to the back yard for a week – the stuff was flying everywhere. Not a good situation.

    Reply to Michele's comment

    • Susy on May 23, 2011 at 3:40 pm

      Glad you’re loving the site. To my knowledge we don’t have any other poisonous plants here – but I’ve been keeping my eye out for poison hemlock as I’ve heard it’s moving into the area but have yet to see any!

      Reply to Susy's comment

      • Michele on May 23, 2011 at 7:03 pm

        I have never seen poison hemlock before… I hope to never see it.

        I think you lucked out and didn’t get the storm that just rolled through here. Nasty, but much cooler.

        to Michele's comment

  19. Barefeet In The Kitchen on May 23, 2011 at 6:18 pm

    I had no idea that you could NOT be allergic to poison ivy! I just thought it was something everyone had to avoid.

    Reply to Barefeet In The Kitchen's comment

  20. Seramarias on May 23, 2011 at 6:23 pm

    Oh, I’m quite allergic. And unfortunately, surrounded by the stuff. It pops up everywhere around our house and yard every spring, and if I so much as touch something that brushed a leaf of it, I wind up with a horribly blistered rash. I’m glad that it gives you beauty, but personally I hate the stuff.

    Reply to Seramarias's comment

  21. KimH on May 23, 2011 at 7:26 pm

    I dont know of any other way to get rid of it, but I’ll share an awesome “cure” for it.

    Usually wherever poison ivy grows, so does Jewelweed, also known as Touch Me Nots or Wild Impatients. Grab a handful of the jewelweed and rub it all over the exposed area, making sure to break into the stems and leaves well so that the “juice” can neutralize it.

    You can also make a tea or tincture of it which goes a long way in aiding the pain and relieving the itch for a little while. I made some at work a couple years ago when one of them broke out & the guys thought I was a genus. ;)

    Reply to KimH's comment

    • Kathi on May 23, 2011 at 7:55 pm

      Thanks for the tip. I’ll have to look up jewelweed. I’m not allergic but my husband is terribly allergic to it.

      Reply to Kathi's comment

  22. Nebraska Dave on May 23, 2011 at 8:58 pm

    Nope not allergic to poison ivy. I’ve never had any reaction even though I was found digging it up and pulling it off a tree before I knew what it was. I didn’t respond, however when my wife did when she washed the clothes I was wearing …. well let’s just say I didn’t really get out of the dog house for a couple weeks. She had it everywhere that she touched the clothes when carrying them to the washer.

    Have a great ivy avoidance day.

    Reply to Nebraska Dave's comment

  23. Sincerely, Emily on May 23, 2011 at 10:50 pm

    I am not sure if I am allergic or not. I know I have been around it hiking when growing up, but don’t know that i ever really got into any. Haven’t seen any around where we live, but have seen poison oak. Emily

    Reply to Sincerely, Emily's comment

  24. Gabe on May 24, 2011 at 8:03 am

    Funny, I was just out on Sunday spraying it. I’m not terribly allergic, but I’ll get spots if I touch it. I agree it’s a nice looking plant, but there’s a lot of menace in those three leaves! I do try to totally get rid of it wherever I or the dog go, since she can track it in the house on her fur. Ordinarily I agree with you that everything has a purpose, but I haven’t yet found a good enough one for poison ivy that warrants keeping it around!

    Reply to Gabe's comment

  25. Emily Jenkins on May 27, 2011 at 7:40 am

    The best way to tell the difference between poison ivy and box elder is that poison ivy leaves grow alternating one side, then the other. Box elder leaves (and all maple family trees) are opposite, so there will be two leaves growing out of the same place on the stem, one on each side. I learned this as a very allergic kid.

    Reply to Emily Jenkins's comment

    • Emily Jenkins on May 27, 2011 at 7:41 am

      Though, I should point out that very young poison ivy often appears to have two leaves growing opposite when really they’re just growing very closely and alternating.

      Reply to Emily Jenkins's comment


This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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