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  1. #1

    Default Is this Poison Ivy or Poison Oak?

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    It grows straight up and then breaks into three branches and then it usually has 5 leaves: three at the end and two opposite each other. I look at pictures on the internet but I'm still not sure. Thanks

  2. #2

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    It's not poison Ivy or Oak. Neither will ever have 5 leaves. Not sure what region your in so an Id would be difficult with out a location and more pictures.

  3. #3

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    I'm in Maine.

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    Not pi or po. It might be a box elder(Acer negundo) seedling which sometimes has five leaves. It's not native to ME but it does volunteer itself which is why it may be listed as an exotic invasive in ME. Was it near human habitation? I ask because sometimes, but I'd suspect rarely in ME, it may be planted as an ornamental in residential landscaping where it escapes to nearby woodlots.

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    Aralia nudicaulis, Wild Sarsaparilla. Common and native woodland plant in the NorthEast. Leaves are thin, rather than the thicker leaves of Poison Ivy. The teeth along the leaf edge are fine and regular, whereas PI has large and irregular teeth.


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  6. #6

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    It's probably the wild sarsaparilla. I live in a cabin in the woods not far from the AT. Somewhere I got poison ivy. I've been looking for the poison ivy so I can avoid it in the future but I can't find it. The wild sarsaparilla grows along my trails. I had been discounting it but then I decided to check on the internet and that just confused me more. Thanks Traillium for clearing that up.

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    Sure hope the browntails haven't reached your neck of the woods. They do terrible things to the skin.
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    Registered User coach lou's Avatar
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    I can not see the leaf edge clearly. If it is smooth and lobed, it could be oak, Ivy is a vine oak is a bush,but Maine.....maybe not. If it is serrated (^^^^^^^^^), then it is neither.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Traillium View Post
    Aralia nudicaulis, Wild Sarsaparilla. Common and native woodland plant in the NorthEast. Leaves are thin, rather than the thicker leaves of Poison Ivy. The teeth along the leaf edge are fine and regular, whereas PI has large and irregular teeth.

    YES, that's it. 100%. TU.

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    Here’s Aralia nudicaulis, Wild Sarsaparilla, including the flowers on a separate stalk.

    This is very common along the Bruce Trail in Southern Ontario — as it is in the deciduous forests in Southern Ontario.


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    Number of leaflets on teh same plant can be variable in number. I've seen the same plant with three leaves missing the two lower basal leaflets, next to a stem with four leaflets with the center pinnate leaf missing, and with 5 leaflets as shown, As the leaves mature they loose the red glossy sheen. It's fragrant. The flowers and fruit give it away if you can experience it that way.

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    Quote Originally Posted by coach lou View Post
    I can not see the leaf edge clearly. If it is smooth and lobed, it could be oak, Ivy is a vine oak is a bush,but Maine.....maybe not. If it is serrated (^^^^^^^^^), then it is neither.
    Poision ivy can be a vine, bush, shrub, or ground cover. It takes on many forms. Its an interesting plant.

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    Leaves of three, let it be.

    Trillium also has three leaves but they are usually much broader and not so glossy. Jack-in-the pulpit is another wildflower that looks very similar to poison ivy.

    Like MW said it can take many forms. Unfortunately I have a lot of it at home. Good thing is that I have a goat that will eat it.

    Another interesting thing is that it does not grow above 3500 ft. in elevation in the Smokies. Cosby Campground at 2000 ft. has a lot of it. But if you go up Low Gap trail it disappears as you climb.

    I've seen it in Shenandoah also as well as Harpers Ferry. Does poison ivy diminish any further north? Or does the 3500ft. level apply regardless of lattitude?

  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by MuddyWaters View Post
    Poision ivy can be a vine, bush, shrub, or ground cover. It takes on many forms. Its an interesting plant.
    Indeed both of these plants are interesting, having the capacity to be a vine, shrub, bush, and can fool even the most experienced eye at times.

    Poison ivy, generally is most commonly found east of the Rocky Mountains with exceptions, can take several different forms of growth and leaf appearance can change greatly between plants depending on season and where it's growing. However the old adage "Leaves of three, leave it be" works for poison ivy as in all cases it has compound leaves in groups of three.

    Poison oak, generally most commonly found mostly west of the Rocky Mountains with exceptions, is a little more difficult to spot as it too can change forms of growth and have different leaf characteristics/shapes and colors depending on season and region its growing in. Unlike poison ivy, it can have 3, 5, or 7 leaf clusters but typically the leaves will look similar to small oak tree leaves.

    My grandfather had a great approach to this when I asked if this or that plant was poison ivy, "if it looks like poison ivy, or you think it may be, leave it alone". Good advice under most any circumstance.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rmitchell View Post
    Leaves of three, let it be.

    Trillium also has three leaves but they are usually much broader and not so glossy. Jack-in-the pulpit is another wildflower that looks very similar to poison ivy.

    Like MW said it can take many forms. Unfortunately I have a lot of it at home. Good thing is that I have a goat that will eat it.

    Another interesting thing is that it does not grow above 3500 ft. in elevation in the Smokies. Cosby Campground at 2000 ft. has a lot of it. But if you go up Low Gap trail it disappears as you climb.

    I've seen it in Shenandoah also as well as Harpers Ferry. Does poison ivy diminish any further north? Or does the 3500ft. level apply regardless of lattitude?
    You might need more goats.
    I have also seen that there's no poison ivy at higher elevations in the Smokies. I've seen plenty of it on the trail in Virginia & West Virginia. Not sure about the low elevations in the next few states because of the season when I was there. But I definitely didn't see any in Maine or New Hampshire, and probably not Vermont or Massachusetts.

  16. #16

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    Poison ivy/oak does not grow well over 4,000-feet, which may be the reason. Elevations that approach that height will probably lessen the number of plants as well.

    Poison ivy can take on a lot of different looks in New England and can be easily missed growing into the canopy via vines, but as elevation increases the plants decrease. In lower elevation river valleys, there is a considerable amount of poison ivy in New England. I have a relatively constant battle with these plants on my property in CT (elevation 1,400-feet), and when we lived in Maine in the Boothbay Harbor region it was something we kept looking for.

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    Taught my kids when they were little to recognize it.
    Leaves of three......and " dont touch hairy vines"

    I been watching a single vine on a pine tree at park near my house for 20 yrs. Park maintenance missed it.
    Started out as little hairy vine climbing a ~8" skinny pine out in open . Tree is 18-24" now.
    Now its about 2" thick woody vine, spirals up trunk, and spreads out long branches about 15' off ground. Interesting, this vine is minimally hairy, you have to look close, ones in swampy woods are often totally hairy in my experience. Again, interesting plant, its often different
    Last edited by MuddyWaters; 06-10-2019 at 08:47.

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    Quote Originally Posted by illabelle View Post
    ...I have also seen that there's no poison ivy at higher elevations in the Smokies...
    Quote Originally Posted by Traveler View Post
    Poison ivy/oak does not grow well over 4,000-feet, which may be the reason. Elevations that approach that height will probably lessen the number of plants as well.
    Based on personal experience, once you start getting significantly above 3,000' in GSMNP, you are unlikely to encounter poison ivy.

    Another thing to keep an eye out for is Virginia Creeper (leaves of five, let it thrive). It is a direct competitor as Poison Ivy and grows in the same conditions. So when you're hiking in those transitional altitudes, anywhere you see Virginia Creeper, you might also find Poison Ivy.

  20. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by HooKooDooKu View Post
    Based on personal experience, once you start getting significantly above 3,000' in GSMNP, you are unlikely to encounter poison ivy.

    Another thing to keep an eye out for is Virginia Creeper (leaves of five, let it thrive). It is a direct competitor as Poison Ivy and grows in the same conditions. So when you're hiking in those transitional altitudes, anywhere you see Virginia Creeper, you might also find Poison Ivy.
    I was gonna mention virginia creeper as many people confuse it with poison ivy---although it's easily distinguishable.

    There's a section of the Benton MacKaye trail north of Unicoi Gap along Peels Mt and Tate Gap and Cantrell Top which is nothing but a sea of healthy poison ivy. One time I got knackered and had to find a camp and, well, who wants to clear a patch of p. ivy?? Luckily I found a small patch of mayapples and cleared a spot---

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