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Toxicodendron radicans

This plant has poison characteristics. See below.
Common Name(s):
Poison ivy
Native Plants, Poisonous Plants, Shrubs, Vines

Toxicodendron radicans, commonly called poison ivy, is the ultimate weed that no one wants. “Leaflets three, let it be.” It is native throughout the United States and much of southern Canada in a large variety of locations including dry or wet woodlands, thickets, valleys, clearings, fencerows, roadsides and waste ground. It primarily appears as a bushy, erect or trailing shrub or as a woody climbing vine. Climbing vines have aerial rootlets. All parts of the plant contain a toxic plant oil called urushiol which can cause significant and long-lasting skin irritations (allergic dermatitis) in most human beings. Infection can occur from direct contact with the plant, indirect contact (e.g., dog, rake or shoes) or from breathing smoke from a fire of plant material. Some humans seem to be immune. The bark is dark gray and densely covered in arial roots.

Toxicodendron radicans is synonymous with Rhus radica.

Regions:  Mountain, Piedmont, Coastal plains

Seasons of Interest: 

  Leaf:   Fall                  Blooms:  Spring            Nut/Fruit/Seed:  Fall

Wildlife Value:  This plant is moderately resistant to damage from deer.  Although this plant can cause severe skin irritations on some people, the fruits are readily eaten by songbirds and woodpeckers.  White-tailed deer and rabbits browse the plant.

Insects, Diseases, or Other Plant Problems:  Do not touch any part of a poison ivy plant. All parts of the plant contain volatile oils that can cause significant skin irritation on direct or indirect contact. Do not burn plant materials because contact with smoke from the burning materials can be just as toxic as touching the plants, and breathing that smoke can be even more hazardous. 

Erect shrub, or most often climbing or trailing; leaves alternate, with 3 leaflets, each smooth margined or shallowly lobed; flowers small in axillary clusters; fruit a smooth, yellow drupe.
1-3 feet
Poison Ivys' compound green leaves are alternate, but can be quite variable in characteristics. Each leaf has a stem with three leaflets that are smooth or toothed, rounded or pointed and glossy or dull. The leaflets are glabrous to hairy beneath. The leaves turn red-yellow in fall.
Poison ivy has insignificant greenish-white flowers that bloom May to July. Waxy, creamy-white to yellowish-white berries (drupes) in axillary clusters ripen in late summer and persist into winter.
4 to 10
Poison ivy grows in a wide variety of conditions including medium moisture soils in sun to shade. Plants should not be grown in the landscape. Eliminate plants with herbicides or remove and destroy plants and root systems by carefully digging them up using rubber gloves and clothing protection for other parts of the body.
Bushy, erect, trailing, climbing
Full sun, part shade
Poison Part:
All parts, in all seasons if plant sap contacted.
Poison Delivery Mode:
Severe skin redness, itching, swelling, and blisters following direct or indirect contact.
Toxic Principle:
Skin irritation is typically severe.
Found in:
Forest or natural area in woods weedy in disturbed areas in fields, roadsides, wasteplaces, fence rows.
1-3 feet
invasive, deciduous, songbirds, drought tolerant, good fall

NCCES plant id: 1184

Toxicodendron radicans Toxicodendron radicans
Toxicodendron radicans Toxicodendron radicans
Toxicodendron radicans Toxicodendron radicans
Toxicodendron radicans Toxicodendron radicans