Poison Ivy, Oak and Sumac: Part 3; Identification
While wearing long sleeves, pants and using an ivy block can help prevent contact with these plants, the best way to prevent a reaction is to avoid the plants altogether. Read the descriptions below to know what to avoid.
It’s well known that poison ivy is identifiable by its three leaves, but there are other traits to beware. The leaves on a poison ivy plant are generally glossy with pointed tips, and the middle leaflet is usually the largest. During the summer months, the plants grow yellowish-green flowers in small clusters and grayish-white fruits. The plant comes in three forms: erect shrub, trailing shrub and woody vine.
Poison oak also has a three leaf pattern, but its leaves change to distinctive colors as the seasons change. The leaves go from light green or red in the spring, to yellow-green in the summer, to bright red or brown in the fall. No matter the season, however, the leaves appear shiny with a soft underside and lobed sides. The leaves are very similar to those of a white oak tree, hence the name poison oak. Its stems are gray-brown with a velvety texture. It usually grows close to the ground as a small bush, but can also grow as a climbing vine.
Though very rare, you should still be on the lookout for poison sumac plants. They only grow as small trees or large shrubs in very wet areas, such as swamps, because their roots need to be in water. The stems are red and smooth with 7-13 smooth leaves growing on them. They grow small, whitish-green flowers and small white fruit. The poison sumac looks similar to the staghorn sumac, with the main differences being the staghorn’s jagged leaves and hairy stems.
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