Poison Ivy: When nature strikes back!

Welcome to Species of the Week! Please excuse my photography skills.

Disclaimer: This post might make you itch.

Once in a while, forces  collaborate to destroy your nature experience. I went for a hike in one of my favourite urban woodlots with my son this week, but  40o C weather (that’s 104o F if you prefer), a flurry of nasty biting insects, a howling toddler that refused to walk most of the way, and a potential run-in with poison ivy sent me running for the comfort of my clean, climate-controlled, itch-free habitat. Sigh.

That said, I finally learned something I have wanted to know for a while:

How to identify Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans)

Here it is (I think):


This is the patch my young son wandered into. Having never actually identified it before, I took a picture to compare at home.

Here are some things to watch out for:  

Leaves of three (let them be): Poison ivy has three pointed leaves, and the middle one has a slightly  longer stalk. They are reddish in spring, green in summer, and shades of yellow orange or red in the fall.  Leaves are NOT serrated, but can be notched. It looks like Virginia creeper and is often confused with it, but has fewer leaves.  

Poison ivy contains an oil called urushiol which causes an allergic reaction in 85% of people. Crazy thing is, the rash won’t appear for 24-36 hours apparently. So you’re left there, wondering, waiting, and itching at the thought of what might happen. Pure evil.  

Tips if you think you have come in contact with poison ivy:

  • Wash with soap as soon as possible.
  • Wash clothing and other items that come in contact with it.
  • Some say that jewelweed (often found near poison ivy) can be mashed and applied to rashes. This study found it effective in preventing the rash, but not as effective as soap: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22766473
  • The rash can last from about 1-3 weeks.
  • It is a myth that the fluid from blisters can spread the rash.
  • Calamine lotion can be used to soothe affected areas.   

If you have a picture and want it identified, some of the sites below let you send in your photos for advice. Note: I did not do this, but I’m fairly certain. Please tell me if I’m wrong!!


We are now beyond 48 hours…and no rash. WHEW!

Have you ever had a run-in with Poison Ivy?






Posted on July 19, 2013, in Species of the week, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Leaves of three, let it be, is a saying I repeat a lot duiring the summer. To control rash, we have used an amazing product called Tecnu, which works wonders…hardly any itch at all, and it eliminates the ivy oil that allows the rash to spread. Great and helpful info here. Thanks!


  2. I’ve had it a few times, but the two incidents that stick in my mind afflicted friends. One was a friend who was clearing, then burning, brush on his property. Much of the brush was poison ivy, and apparently the oils in the plant can be carried in the smoke, and he was stricken with a rash in his nose, throat, and LUNGS. Ouch. The other was a childhood friend who, at his lakeside cottage, found the bathroom occupied and, being somewhat desperate, decided to do what bears do. You know where this is going, He used some leaves to wipe, leaves of the poison sumac. Double ouch.


  3. My husband and I didn’t start getting it until we were both in our late 20’s. Talk about torture!


  1. Pingback: Box Elder or Poison Ivy? | Unlocking the Gate

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