Here on Long Island, we have many varieties of fauna. Some are beautiful, some are edible, and some are even poisonous. We have three varieties that are irritating to our skin when touched, they include Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, and Poison Sumac. Here are some ways that you can differentiate these plants in the outdoors from each other and other plants during the summer months.
We have all heard the rhyme “Leaves of three, leave them be.” This is a great way to identify the leaves of Poison Ivy. This strand of Ivy can grow almost anywhere on the East Coast. But lets start with visual identification. When young, Ivy leaves
are small and red, while older leaves are large and bright green. It has been seen that with increased levels of CO2, leaves are getting larger and rashes are becoming more prominent from the stronger irritant. Poison Ivy can mimic other plants, it can have deep notches which make it look like Oak leaves to the unsuspecting. Poison Ivy will never have thorns on ts stem. They will also never have scalloped or sharp and pointy edges. They tend to draw left and then right, never directly across from each other on the stem. On the east coast, Poison Ivy can grow well near salt water, when living in these conditions the leaves take on a curly waxy appearance. However, Poison Ivy can live in wet or dry conditions. Poison Ivy can grow into shrubs, and overtake the area. They climb up the trunk of a small tree or bush and then “explode” in every direction trying to get every leaf in the sunshine. The Ivy can even grow up into tall tree lines, so watch your head when walking through a canopied area. Poison Ivy can even be found living along the side of the road (which is common), or even on the rocks.
Poison Sumac is a less common variety in the Poison Ivy family. However, it can still be found growing in wetland type areas. Sumac loves living in ankle deep water and mud. Like Poison Ivy, Poison Sumac can cause an irritating rash much like Ivy. Sumac grows as a tree. Its leaves are wider at the bottom and come to a point at the top, they have smooth edges. The stems on these plants are a bright red. Unlike Poison Ivy, Sumac grows directly across from each other on the vine. Some varietals of Suma
c grow tightly bunched berries that hang down from the stem.
Poison Oak is used almost interchangeably with Posion Ivy, however they have two major differences.Poison Oak only grows in dry sandy areas. The shape of Poison Oak is also different, the leaves have more of a wavy look to it rather then smooth and pointy. The leaves of Poison Oak are just as irritating to human skin as Posion Ivy. They also grow in sets of three and left then right like Ivy. Some strands of Posion Oak can grow berries, that look green and fuzzy.
Thank you to PoisonIvy.org for the original information and photos. You can read more here.