Poison Ivy … or Not?
We certainly don’t want to inspire false confidence in the face of potentially poisonous plants, so consider this a hands-off plant primer. Poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) is extremely variable, and it has many native Texan lookalikes, most of which share its three-leaflet characteristic. The safest (and least itchy) course of action is to heed the saying, “Leaves of three, let it be.”
ILLUSTRATIONS Samantha N. Peters
Leaves: Three glossy leaflets with smooth (sometimes toothed) edges; base leaves may have notches; each three-leaflet set is arranged alternately from others on stems; red in fall Habit: Vine (typically) or shrub, stems have hairy appearance, lack tendrils Fruit: Small, yellow-white to amber berries ripen in late summer
Leaves: Three smooth leaflets with a strong resemblance to poison ivy, yellow in fall Habit: Small to medium tree Fruit: Papery wafers containing seeds emerge in summer from delicate and fragrant greenish- white flowers
Leaves: Five leaflets rather than three, red in fall (like poison ivy) Habit: Vine with tendrils that attach via discs Fruit: Green fruit turning blue-black when ripe in fall
Leaves: Unlike poison ivy, three-leaflet sets are opposite one another on stems; terminal leaflets sometimes have two noticeable lobes; yellow in fall Habit: Medium to tall tree, young plants look more like poison ivy Fruit: Seeds hang from samaras in long, drooping clusters
Leaves: Dark green, coarsely toothed and usually binnately compound (leaflets are arranged on secondary stems), pale yellow in fall Habit: High-climbing vine, occasionally acts like groundcover Fruit: Purplish-black berries that ripen in fall (green to pink) when unripe