Oddball Poison Ivy

odd poison ivy

The biggest problem in trying identify poison ivy is how VARIABLE the plant can be in terms of leaf shape, leaf size, color, etc. 

Look at the photo featured here: the leaves look too fat and round to be poison ivy, but poison ivy it is. The only way I could tell for sure was to look at the surrounding leaves, like the ones at the left of the photo, which are much more standard poison ivy shaped. 

Given how variable the plant can be, how do you really know if an iffy-looking plant is poison ivy? Aside from carrying around a set of the SeeLeaf detection wipes, there is no sure way. But this is why I worked up a set of rules to rule in or out some plants:

  • Poison ivy NEVER HAS thorns of any kind.
  • Poison ivy ALWAYS HAS leaves (or leaflets) of three, NEVER more.
  • Poison ivy NEVER has fine, saw-toothed leaf edges or scalloped edges.
  • Poison ivy SOMETIMES has notches, so notches really don't help us.
  • Poison ivy SOMETIMES is shiny, so shiny really doesn't help us.

So you can find poison ivy that obeys all the rules, but still not be able to tell for sure. In these cases you have three choices:

  1. Send me a photo and I'll see if I can tell.
  2. Assume it IS poison ivy and leave it alone.
  3. Buy the aforementioned detection wipes, snip the vine, and test the sap.

The 4th option is to have me travel to your location and take a look, but that could get costly for both of us, unless you live next door to me, or perhaps on a nice beach– with an empty guest house. Just kidding. :-)