Poison Ivy

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Poison Ivy Growing in Ferns Poison Ivy Young Leaves Poison Ivy on Tree Trunk Poison Ivy on Forest Floor    

Virginia Creeper
Virginia Creeper
Parthenocissus quinquefolia
(Linnaeus) Planchon
Florida Distribution

more Virginia Creeper
Atlas of Florida Vascular Plants

Summer's Hottest Page!
Is This Poison Ivy?

by Leigh Fulghum

Encountering a plant with three distinct leaves does not necessarily mean the worst-  Virginia Creeper is a native plant beneficial to Florida bees and wildlife. But this benign relative of the Grape can sometimes masquerade as Poison Ivy, causing confusion and consternation. Because, though the creeper's compound leaves usually have 5 leaflets, they may also have 3 (or 7). And, both Virginia Creeper and Poison Ivy display red pigments in fall and winter.

Homeowners in Florida may find Virginia Creeper growing on their fences, walls, and on tree trunks.   Cabbage Palms (Sabal palmetto) which are transplanted from wild areas into urban  landscapes as well as trees grown in field nurseries frequently host growths of Poison Ivy, Virginia Creeper, or both. For naturalized landscaping effects or when landscaping for wildlife, it may be desirable to maintain some vines of  Virginia Creeper.

Do I Have Poison Ivy?

Whether or not one has Poison Ivy is best determined by one's own judgement or by expert  firsthand visual inspection of the rash or the plant, and preferably according to a sample of both. However, be careful not to contract a case while harvesting a specimen.

Consult  your county Cooperative Extension Service- one of the best sources for getting the right information about local plants. This link will show you where to find a UFL/IFAS Florida Cooperative Extension in your county.

Poison Ivy, is also a Florida native plant, but has irritating sap like other of its relatives within the Cashew Family. For most people, an irritating sap is difficult to tolerate in any family.

Poison Ivy

Poison Ivy (above)
Toxicodendron radicans
(Linnaeus) Kuntze
Florida Distribution


Poison Ivy



The fruit of Poison Ivy is referred to botanically as a drupe,  and is greenish-white in color.






Virginia Creeper


The fruit of Virginia Creeper is a berry and resembles its grape cousins, dark blue to black in color.

The leaves of Poison Ivy are compound
, each leaf comprised of 3 leaflets. In general, the stalk of  a leaf, whether simple or compound, is  the petiole, and the stalk of a leaflet is a petiolule.

Poison Ivy

A close look at the compound leaves of Poison Ivy shows 3 leaflets with distinct petiolules, one of them long and clearly differentiated from the blade of its leaflet.

Virginia Creeper

The compound leaves of Virginia Creeper typically have 5 leaflets. But the petiolules are so short that the leaflets appear almost sessile, or unstalked. 

Poison Ivy in August
from Plants Daily Post

8/26/2008 Poisonous Plants in Florida

Poison Ivy Thoughts at a Miami Monastery

Behind whitewashed gates, crumbling coral walls and thick privacy hedges, the way to the meditation pond is not without its dangers. Even there lurks the one toxic resiny leaf that stops a botanist dead in her (or his) tracks- the black-blistered foliage of Toxicodendron radicans. It is unknown why instinct, or at least common sense doesn't always click in when poisonous items are encountered in life. This plant screams "don't touch me" to the keen eye, and it's those who feel that all plants look alike who end up scratching. Many newcomers to Florida are not aware that Mango is in the same family (Anacardiaceae ) as Poison Ivy, until the first time they wear a bathing suit while pruning a Mango tree. Like Poison Ivy, dripping sap from Mango trees is something best avoided.

More  Phases and Faces of Poison Ivy

Atlas of Florida Vascular Plants Images showing: Red Leaves of Poison Ivy, Poison Ivy with Lobed Leaflets, White Flowers of Poison Ivy, Poison Ivy with Few or No Lobed Leaflets



Page Credits
Images: From the Plant Systematics Teaching Collection, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Florida Distribution Maps:
From the Atlas of Florida Vascular Plants by Richard P.Wunderlin and Bruce F. Hansen, USF Institute of Systematic Botany
Text and Design: Leigh Fulghum, floridaplants.com e-mail: flplants@floridaplants.com
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