Poison Ivy Identification

Carol Pinnell-Alison  |  6/19/2009 7:19:01 PM

Poison ivy

Virginia-creeper

Many outdoor activities will occur over the warmer months. To make sure you and your family members do not have an unfortunate encounter with poison ivy or poison oak, here is a description of the woody vines.

Poison ivy (Rhus radicans) is a woody deciduous perennial climbing vine. The leaves are alternate, large, and shiny, with three leaflets that are pointed at the tip. Flowers are small yellowish-green and the fruit drupe, nearly spherical.

Poison oak (Rhus toxicodendron) is very similar in appearance, but it does not climb and the leaflets are thicker, dull green and hairy on both sides. The leaves of both plants have a very attractive red or reddish-yellow color in the fall.

Poison ivy and poison oak contain a phenolic compound called urushiol which is a skin and mucous membrane irritant. Urushiol is found in all parts of the plant. Susceptible people exhibit intense itching with inflammation and the formation of blisters at the areas of contact. When burning debris that may contain poison ivy or poison oak, be aware that the smoke can transmit the irritant. Animals are rarely affected by the irritant, but may transmit it to you on their hair.

Another woody deciduous perennial climbing vine that may be confused with poison ivy or poison oak is Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia). The leaves are palmately compound with three to seven leaflets but usually five. The fruit drupe with a black or dark blue color and are round. This plant does not contain any irritants and is not considered poisonous.

So remember, leaflets with three, let it be, and leaflets of five, stay alive. For more information on other poisonous plants, give us a call at 318-435-7551, come by our office in the Franklin Parish Courthouse or go to the LSU AgCenter Web site.

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