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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Tuesday - July 30, 2013

From: Danbury, CT
Region: Northeast
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Plant identification of plant with leaves like poison ivy
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I would like to identify a plant whose leaves look like poison ivy, but the stem is white and has thorns. It is not thready. It was prevalent in overgrown garden beds of a house in Litchfield, CT. Thanks.

ANSWER:

If the plant was growing in garden beds, there is a very good chance that it is a non-native introduced cultivar and not a native of North America.   If that is the case, then we aren't the ones to help you since our focus and expertise are with plants native to North America.  Additionally, you haven't given me very much to help identify it.  It would be good to know whether the plant is woody or not.  Are the leaves arranged in threes like poison ivy or do the leaves just have the shape of poison ivy leaves?  Does it have flowers?  The Connecticut Botanical Society has a database, Gallery of Connecticut Wildflowers, where you can search for Connecticut wildflowers by flower color or by name. Their database includes some non-natives as well as natives and it includes some woody plant such as roses (native and non-native).

You can also search in our Native Plant Database by doing a COMBINATION SEARCH, choosing "Connecticut" from the Select State or Province slot and either "Herb", "Subshrub" or "Shrub" from Habit (general appearance).  There are other characteristics you can choose such as Leaf Characteristics or Size Characteristics to narrow the list of possibilities to a manageable size.

Members of the Family Rosaceae (Rose Family) often have thorny stems and sometimes have their leaves in groups of three like poison ivy (e.g., those in the genera Rosa and Rubus).   You can look through the various native plants in the rose family that grow in Connecticut by choosing "Family Rosaceae" from the list in the Family: slot in the green "Search native plant database:" rectangle on our Native Plant Database page.  This will give you a list of more than 300 plants.  You can limit the list of plants to those that grow in Connecticut by using the NARROW YOUR SEARCH option and choosing "Connecticut" from the Select State or Province slot and reduce the number of plants to a little more than 100 plants for you to look through.

If you aren't able to find your plant by doing any of the searches suggested above and you do have photos (or can take photos) of the plant, then please visit our Plant Identification page to find links to plant identification websites that will accept photos of plants for identification.  Please read the "Important Notes" on that page with helpful hints about submitting photos.   Photos of flowers to go with the foliage photos are especially useful for identifying plants.

 

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