Atlantic Poison Oak

Atlantic poison oak map

Here is the problem with Atlantic poison oak, or Toxicodendron pubescens: it looks almost identical to poison ivy, and many people use the two terms interchangeably.

Actual Atlantic poison oak is not nearly as common as eastern poison ivy. It seems to grow in dry, sandy areas. The only place I have found it, so far, is in southern New Jersey, where an expert botanist showed it to me. 

atlantic poison oak always-never chart

Here is your basic chart of things you CAN count on with Atlantic poison oak. If you know that nothing with thorns or 5 leaves in a group can be poison ivy, you're getting there. 

But here is the thing: it will give you the same rash as poison ivy and it looks almost the same, so for most people it really doesn't matter that it is a different plant.


Atlantic poison oak

Here are two leaves where the ones in the middle of the photo look oak-like, but the one on the right looks just like poison ivy. (Pink and blue berries on the left ARE blueberries!)

Atlantic poison oak

This is a patch of Atlantic poison oak growing below an evergreen. In this case the leaves are deeply textured. 

Atlantic poison oak

Here we have some small shrub-like Atlantic poison oak plants. Each has different leaf shapes. And the one on the bottom left has the same sort of leaf disease we find on poison ivy.

Atlantic poison oak berries

This is about the only real way for most of us to know if we are looking at Atlantic poison oak rather than eastern poison ivy: the berries are fuzzy! (The leaves and stems are slightly fuzzy, but that is hard to see.)

Atlantic poison oak

Poison oak growing along with cacti in southern New Jersey. Shows that it takes to dry, sandy soil.

Atlantic poison oak

Here is Atlantic poison oak growing with some seedlings of actual oak trees. The real oaks don't have the classic "leaves of three" that poison ivy always has.