Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Poison Ivy, Eastern Poison Ivy
Toxicodendron radicans

Family: Anacardiaceae (an-a-kard-ee-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Toxicodendron (toks-ee-ko-DEN-dron) (Info)
Species: radicans (RAD-ee-kans) (Info)

Synonym:Rhus radicans

9 members have or want this plant for trade.

Vines and Climbers

6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m)

over 40 ft. (12 m)

USDA Zone 3a: to -39.9 C (-40 F)
USDA Zone 3b: to -37.2 C (-35 F)
USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)
USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)
USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)

Sun Exposure:
Sun to Partial Shade

All parts of plant are poisonous if ingested
Handling plant may cause skin irritation or allergic reaction

Bloom Color:
Pale Green

Bloom Time:
Late Spring/Early Summer

Good Fall Color

Other details:
May be a noxious weed or invasive
Provides winter interest

Soil pH requirements:
Unknown - Tell us

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
By dividing the rootball
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall
From seed; winter sow in vented containers, coldframe or unheated greenhouse
By simple layering

Seed Collecting:
Remove fleshy coating on seeds before storing
Allow unblemished fruit to ripen; clean and dry seeds
Unblemished fruit must be significantly overripe before harvesting seed; clean and dry seeds
Wear gloves to protect hands when handling seeds

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There are a total of 29 photos.
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4 positives
8 neutrals
14 negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Negative coriaceous On Mar 10, 2014, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

This is such an aggressive weed that I'd need to control it even if it weren't toxic, in order to grow other plants.

Spraying with 2% glyphosate herbicide will kill it. Wait till the leaves are fully expanded, wet them all using the coarsest spray setting. (That's to prevent accidental herbicide damage to desirable plants through spray drift---large droplets don't drift as far on the air.)

Wait at least two weeks more before cutting the stems. Dispose of it in landfill. Old, dried debris remains toxic for years.

Those who aren't allergic should know that repeated exposure can sensitize your immune system to the toxic resin. No one should expose themselves to it unnecessarily.

Barrier creams can help prevent contact with the resin. Cleaning with Zanfel can help with the rash up to 48 hours after exposure.

Neutral theNobody14161 On Jan 12, 2010, theNobody14161 from Kalamazoo, MI wrote:

This plant can give a rash, though the rash isnt nearly as bad as poison sumac. It used to run rampet with virginia creeper in the woods next door to my house, until garlic mustard destroyed it.

Positive treehugggr On Jan 8, 2010, treehugggr from New Port Richey, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:

I have been cultivating Poison Ivy, and Toxicodendron rydbergii (Poison Oak) for years, as a "creep-deterrant" around windows and such. Works well when mixed with thorny plants.

If you have a teen daughter, the boys won't crawl in (not more than once anyway), and she will never sneak out the window!

Neutral peachespickett On Jun 7, 2008, peachespickett from Huntington, AR wrote:

Interesting thing I read....Twenty year-old herbarium specimens of poison ivy still gave rashes to the botanists examining them. Even though they had been dried out and setting in a drawer for twenty years, the oils were still potent enough to cause a reaction. Lucky for me I don't seem to be affected by it, though my Dad looks like a burn victim every time he gets done working in the woods.

Negative Malus2006 On May 29, 2008, Malus2006 from Coon Rapids, MN (Zone 4a) wrote:

I dislike this plant - as a additonal note: Here in Minnesota the poison ivy here tend to be subshrub - commonly less than 1 foot even thought I have seen one plant go to 3 feet! The vine form is rare or absent here. Subshrub means that it grows from a single woody stem. I have seen poison ivy from zone 3b (they seem to hate -30 degree rocky acidic soil so you will never see them in boreal forests) to the Everglades in Florida!

Negative Lothar7 On May 21, 2008, Lothar7 from Ames, IA wrote:

I've sprayed, pulled then bagged these little demons for over a month now. I have been collecting the remains in a yard waste bag for disposal... However, after reading the warnings about burning this weed I'm concerned that I may be endangering someone by leaving this bag for curbside pickup (our local power plant burns trash).

I've read tons of suggestions about killing this weed but I haven't really seen a good recommendation for its safe disposal.

Negative sarazen On Apr 27, 2008, sarazen from Glen Rock, PA (Zone 6b) wrote:

Nightmare plant. I have a small tree line behind my house and it is over-run with the stuff. It is so robust in this area, I had one vine that was easily 30 to 40 years old and had transformed into something of bonsai bush when the tree that supported it died and rotted away!

To begin to clear it out, my husband and I must have cut over 100 vines last fall, many go up 20ft. or more so getting them off the trees is not possible. Now the under-story is now flooded with seedings, some from the major roots, and others from seeds. What makes this even worse is that both my husband and I develop a nasty ITCHY WEEPING RASH from handling the stuff, even sometimes from the air. If it is burned the evil oil floats in the smoke and can invade the eyes, nose, ears, even the lungs. It will be years before we can consider this killed off. For me, this is the nastiest thug in the yard, and we have Virgina Ceeper and Chinese Pivet to deal with as well. I hate it so...

Neutral creekwalker On Nov 28, 2007, creekwalker from Benton County, MO (Zone 5a) wrote:

Fortunately, I have never been allergic to this plant, though there is always a first time.

If you do get into a patch accidently, look around for Jewellweed as it is a remedy for Poison Ivy. Crush the plant and rub it on the areas that were exposed. Jewellweed often grows with Poison Ivy.

Negative tropicsofohio On Sep 22, 2007, tropicsofohio from Hilliard, OH (Zone 6b) wrote:

I love to hate this plant, its invasive and even though I'm not as affected by it, I still hate it because I get that itchy little rash.

The only reason I am less affected is because my body learned how to protect itself when I was young. when i was 8 I had a bad rash that resulted in going to the children's hospital.

It's impossible to kill. this plant could survive a nuclear war. Humans are the only known animal to get a reaction.

Negative filthpig On Sep 10, 2007, filthpig from Avon Lake, OH wrote:

I just moved to an area in Ohio called Avon Lake. I think this is the mecca for poison ivy. Yes, I am allergic like so many. As a professional gardening landscaper, I can't help wonder why would anyone want to propagate this horrific plant.

There are so many other vines that do not irritate and are much more handsome. I heard a story of a guy that was showing off to his friends that he was not allergic by rubbing the foliage all over his skin. Then he proceeded to really impress them by ingesting one. I guess after his throat started closing up they were all awe struck. P.S. for those who may not know, never burn firewood that may have the ivy attached to it (very bad for throat and lungs). And the vine is active in the winter and for a period after it is dead as well. I prefer to kill poison ivy when it's near my work.

Neutral chicochi3 On May 17, 2006, chicochi3 from Fayetteville, AR (Zone 6b) wrote:

I'll give this a neutral because of the things in my yard that I hate even more. Like greenbriers. Porcelain berries. Virginia creeper. Honeysuckle. Boxwoods. After dealing with all these, the poison ivy isn't half bad.

Negative winter_unfazed On Dec 20, 2005, winter_unfazed from Rural Webster County, MO (Zone 6a) wrote:

This plant grows thick in some spots here, making it a nightmare to harvest the black raspberries that grow along with them. The only positive is that the sight of it deters traffic in places such as fences.

Negative Breezymeadow On Oct 26, 2005, Breezymeadow from Culpeper, VA (Zone 7a) wrote:

Except for its supposed importance to wildlife, I find absolutely nothing to recommend this plant. It spreads strongly & prodigiously, climbs high up into treetops here, eventually producing vines inches thick that can damage them.

That said, although it has little to no effect on me, my husband is HIGHLY allergic to it; thus I pull it out or apply a Roundup-type organic product to it whenever I find it. I can't imagine anyone purposely encouraging its existence, & doubt any wildlife depends on it solely for survival.

Positive c_etude On Oct 25, 2005, c_etude from Winter Haven, FL wrote:

Did you know you can bonsai just about any plant? This includes poison ivy. ALTHOUGH THE UTMOST CARE MUST BE DONE--AS IT HAS VERY ALLERGIC CAUSING SECRETIONS--personal protective equipment such as heavy gloves, goggles, and boil utensils after use. Incredibly, it makes a beautiful bonsai tree. Just don't touch it. The vine itself IS quite beautiful. (Yes you can make bonsai trees out of any vine, including english ivy, and whatever else you can think of!)

Poison ivy is practical too:

As long as you have no children or pets, this actually makes a good "watch plant"--that is, using nature's attributes to help protect yourself. Why is poison ivy poisonous--to protect itself. It is *defense*. It IS a very pretty vine and as potted plants hung near windows with roses and bougainvillea to add awesome pricks, makes a very effective defense to protect yourself. I have never had poison ivy get out of control when put in containers. A very innocent looking vine, it has its fangs out at all times to help with personal protection.

That's what I like about plants that has a bite or sting. They are, simply put, protective mechanisms that can be harnessed for one's own personal safety.

And since the homeowner knows what the plant is, special care is taken for watering needs, etc. Poison ivy is definitely low maintanence.

Most burglaries are committed with windows, and this combination (bougainvillea and/or roses with poison ivy) will make most efficient deterrents. (actually in pots they won't grow huge at all.)

If you cannot grow roses and bouganvillea at a certain place, you can be certain poison ivy will grow there. That, and stinging nettles, as well as blessed thistle, which too make very pretty plants. Blessed thistle sting. What defense when combined with poison ivy.

Poison ivy has awesome colours during Autumn. I would say even poison ivy, with this consideration in terms of crime prevention, is a very useful plant.

Positive megamuffin On Jun 26, 2004, megamuffin from Baton Rouge, LA wrote:

I know this sounds crazy, but after days of contemplating what to do about a patch of poison ivy, I decided to make friends with it (read book "Growing Myself- A Spiritual Journey Through Gardening" by Judith Handelsman--very enlightening perspective).

I have two young boys (4&5) that only saw poison ivy in OK at Grandma's house until we moved here to Louisiana from Colorado.

Every chance I get I show them the leaves and describe the itchy reaction dramatically (from personal experience)! So far my warning has been heeded, as I stare at the bright green leaves encircling the base of a live oak tree. I know the birds did it (Which birds? 'mock'ingbirds, probably--hee, hee!)

"How little we know as yet of the life of plants----their hopes and fears, pains and enjoyments!" (John Muir, "A Thousand Mile Walk to the Gulf"--1916, from above book referral).

Negative Wingnut On Jun 16, 2004, Wingnut from Spicewood, TX (Zone 8b) wrote:

I'm another person who has a severe allergy to poison ivy.

Just have to add to look CLOSELY at ALL the pictures you see anywhere. This plant can look remarkably different in different areas.

Neutral CatskillKarma On Jun 12, 2004, CatskillKarma from West Kill, NY wrote:

I live in the Catskill mountains where poison ivy is endemic. I am highly susceptible to the rash and did my best to avoid it until I took up night hunting with hounds for raccoons. Before then, I had several bouts lasting longer than the doctors said was possible and have scars to prove it. Since taking up hunting in the dark, though, I haven't been able to avoid poison ivy. But, other hunters showed me how to keep it to a minimum:

Before gardening or hunting, grease up with cold cream, Vaseline, or whatever greasy stuff is handy. This prevents the toxic oils from penetrating to your skin as quickly. If I am careful to wash thoroughly when I get back--and put my outer clothing directly in the washing machine--I don't get the rash. I have occasionally gotten the rash from sleeping with my hound, but a quick shower in the morning is enough to get rid of a light dose of second hand oil.

Negative MotherNature4 On Jan 24, 2004, MotherNature4 from Bartow, FL (Zone 9a) wrote:

Yes, short haired dogs certainly can get a rash from poison ivy. Our dachshund's belly was covered with it after running through a patch growing on the ground. Mother Nature

Negative suncatcheracres On Jan 24, 2004, suncatcheracres from Old Town, FL wrote:

I have six acres of this plant, and although I am 1/8 Native American, Cherokee tribe, I am highly allergic to it. I love my property, but this plant and the also highly toxic (to me) trumpet creeper have made gardening here very miserable for me at times. After over 25 years as an organic gardener, I have had to finally resort to Roundup (after reading everything I could on the internet about it) as there is no way to pull up the ever present roots physically without getting some of the plant on me. This plant also keeps me from petting my dog, as dogs do not have reactions to this plant, but I can certainly get it from her just by petting her.

My son is also allergic to it, and he gets it every time he visits, and he told me to use Dawn dishwashing detergent and don't use alcohol, because the alcohol will spread it.

Neutral antkneeh On Jan 24, 2004, antkneeh from Topeka, KS wrote:

I've always been fortunate not to be allergic to any of the 'leaves of three' plants. I am a Native American and wanted to pass on this old wives tale. I was told that if, in spring, you ingest a small amount of the leaf, that it would render you immune to the plant for the year. I don't advise this, as it is a highly dangerous plant, especially if you are allergic.

I once lived in a small house that had a roof problem. To get to the roof, I'd climb the tree in the back using these huge vines for handhold and footholds. when we hired someone to fix the roof, he asked how I got up to the roof. He was neither immune nor amused when he got covered head to toe with the rash.

Negative Toxicodendron On Jan 24, 2004, Toxicodendron from Piedmont, MO (Zone 6a) wrote:

Even though I took this plant's name as my Dave's ID, I did so because I figured it was so despised that no one else would be using it, not because I like the plant. I have had many severe reactions to the toxins in this plant, both from skin contact and smoke inhalation (The latter almost killed me as a child, my throat nearly swelled shut, along with my eyes. It took 3 weeks to get over that episode).

It is true that birds like the seeds. Because of that, new seedlings come up all over the place if you allow seed bearing size plants on your property. I have been nearly overrun with this plant everywhere I have lived in this part of Missouri. Every hiking, camping, and fishing trip is one long ordeal of trying to avoid the plant. I used to try pulling it up, roots and all, but I would inevitably get brushed by a wiry piece hitting my face and get a miserable rash.

Finally, my reactions got so bad I had to go to the doctor each time and get cortisone shots and pills to keep it from taking over my body. So, for a long time, I just gave up a big section of my property to the poison ivy and stayed out of it. That was a big mistake. The birds (and I LOVE birds) spread the seeds everywhere and I started getting it in my garden and flower beds. Now I am using a fine spray of Roundup on a good sunny day in May to kill a little more of it each year.

Some of the vines have reached tremendous size by the creek and have to be sawed down. My advice is to get rid of this plant as soon as you see it if you are allergic to it. Plant something else for the birds.

Negative wnstarr On Jan 24, 2004, wnstarr from Puyallup, WA (Zone 5a) wrote:

Why would anyone want this poisonous plant on or near their property? It is very striking in the fall when the foliage has colored up. But this has lead to many a person getting infected by picking fall foliage. The old boy scout warning about leaves in groups of threes is true. Do not touch, burn or eat any part of this plant.

Neutral htop On Jan 23, 2004, htop from San Antonio, TX (Zone 8b) wrote:

It is a plant that has been put here on earth for a reason. It does have a nice fall color.Other comments about not being bothered by this plant may explain why I am not very susceptible to its poisons. I am of Native American ancestry on my maternal grandmother's side of my family.

I don't usually advertise a product, but several people said that Zanfel helps with the itching and pain:

Positive Ewald On Jan 23, 2004, Ewald from Limerick, PA (Zone 6b) wrote:

It grows luxuriantly and has pretty red fall color. It's suitable for poor soils, or just cracks in pavement, in urban areas. No one plants it, but its good for growing on a fence to dissuade climbers. It feeds birds... but I still pull it out whenever I find it in my back yard. I just thought someone should have something nice to say about it.

Dave Ewald

Negative FranG On Oct 7, 2002, FranG from Brighton, MA wrote:

The leaves at any stage, the stems, and the roots are all poisonous. Never burn to destroy! The smoke inhaled can kill!

Neutral Terry On Aug 31, 2001, Terry from Murfreesboro, TN (Zone 7a) wrote:

"Leaves of three, let it be!" This member of the cashew family emits toxins through its foliage that are highly irritating to many people. Sometimes the rash will not show up for several hours or even days; but if you have a brush with poison ivy, prompt action can avoid an outbreak. Ideally, within within 10 minutes swab the area with rubbing alcohol (washing with soap and water may just spread it around further.)

When eradicating poison ivy, think twice about burning the cuttings, as the toxins will transmit through the air, causing severe irritation to lungs and nasal passages of anyone nearby.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Cullman, Alabama
Jones, Alabama
Tuscaloosa, Alabama
Fayetteville, Arkansas
Fresno, California
San Anselmo, California
San Diego, California
Bartow, Florida
Lutz, Florida
New Port Richey, Florida
Old Town, Florida
Tallahassee, Florida
Hawkinsville, Georgia
Jacksonville, Illinois
Mackinaw, Illinois
Hobart, Indiana
Ames, Iowa
Benton, Kentucky
Lexington, Kentucky
South China, Maine
Brookeville, Maryland
Cumberland, Maryland
Riverdale, Maryland
Milton, Massachusetts
Roslindale, Massachusetts
Waltham, Massachusetts
Dearborn Heights, Michigan
Mount Morris, Michigan
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Marietta, Mississippi
Mathiston, Mississippi
Ocean Springs, Mississippi
Cole Camp, Missouri
Kansas City, Missouri
Piedmont, Missouri
Rogersville, Missouri
Beacon, New York
West Kill, New York
Clayton, North Carolina
Four Oaks, North Carolina
Henderson, North Carolina
Newton Grove, North Carolina
Norlina, North Carolina
Raleigh, North Carolina
Smithfield, North Carolina
Wilsons Mills, North Carolina
Bucyrus, Ohio
Cleveland, Ohio
Clyde, Ohio
Hilliard, Ohio
New Carlisle, Ohio
Vinton, Ohio
Pocola, Oklahoma
Glen Rock, Pennsylvania
Greencastle, Pennsylvania
Millersburg, Pennsylvania
Morrisville, Pennsylvania
Norristown, Pennsylvania
Hope Valley, Rhode Island
Conway, South Carolina
Rock Hill, South Carolina
Arlington, Texas
Austin, Texas (3 reports)
Dallas, Texas
Mc Kinney, Texas
Red Oak, Texas
San Antonio, Texas (2 reports)
Spicewood, Texas
Edmond, West Virginia
Peterstown, West Virginia
Merrimac, Wisconsin
Oconto, Wisconsin

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