Poison Ivy: An Earth-Wise Guide

POISON IVY: Leaflets of three, let it be!
(for lookalikes see bottom photo)



Consistently has three leaflets with smooth, wavy or serrated edges; leaflets are alternate on the stem; clusters of whitish flowers and fruit are not showy

Growth Habits:

Persistent deciduous perennial; young plants can be 1’-2’ tall and are herbaceous; mature plants can be woody and cover hundreds of square feet; can grow to be vine-like, shrubby or a ground cover; vine attaches to any object that will support it; spreads by rhizomes and seeds

Growing Preferences:

Prefers fertile, well-drained soil; most common in shady areas

POISON IVY with lobe variation,
new growth


Oily resin can cause severe itching, skin inflammation and blisters; oil can bond on to the skin within 20 minutes of exposure and stay active on some surfaces for up to five years; allergic reaction may take as little as four hours or up to 10 days; three out of four people will have some type of reaction within 24-72 hours. IF EYES SWELL SHUT, SEE A DOCTOR

Rash Prevention:

  • Prevent rashes by avoiding contact with the plant

  • Wear gloves, long sleeves and pants

  • Preventative blockers are available pre-exposure; special cleansers may help after exposure

  • Avoid indirect contact- the oil can stay active for 1 to 5 years on clothing and equipment


  • If you come in contact with the plant, wash the oil from your skin with cold water within 20 minutes of exposure

  • Try over-the-counter anti-itch products for minor itching or swelling or check with your pharmacist

  • If case is severe, consult with your doctor

Least Toxic Solutions

Physically Remove the Plant

  • It is best to pull small plants when soil is moist – grab plants through a plastic bag and turn inside out over the plant

  • Smother small plants with mulch

  • If vine is growing up into a tree, sever vine at ground level

  • Use a sharp shovel or grubbing tool to remove established plant roots

  • Do not mow or string trim plants

  • Salt is not recommended to kill the plants – the quantity necessary would stay in the soil and continue to kill anything planted until leached away

  • Bag or bury the vegetation that is removed (do not burn foliage – may cause severe injury if inhaled)

  • Might take persistence!

If you must use an herbicide…

  • Use herbicide as a last resort

  • Follow label instructions carefully

  • Don’t use herbicide right before a rain – it can run off to harm our creeks

  • Apply post-emergent product when plants are actively growing for best results

  • Use a wiper applicator, weed wand or a foam formulation designed to apply herbicide directly on the vegetation to minimize drifting

  • May require a series of applications

  • Consult with your Extension agent or nursery professional for more information

    Poison Ivy Lookalikes

    CLICK for Poison Ivy lookalikes





Content and copyright permission generously granted by:
Austin Grow Green: www.growgreen.org, who works in close association with:
Texas AgriLife Extension Service:  http://agrilifeextension.tamu.edu
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This post was written by Marjory

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