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Poison Ivy - Rhus radicans

Poison Ivy is a woody perennial of two kinds.  One most frequently found grows horizontally on or just below the ground surface with upright leafy stalks growing 4-32 inches in height.  It is a compound leaf containing 3 leaflets.  The second is a climbing vine that develops aerial roots and can climb 6-10 meters per node.  In spring and early summer, new leaves will be a reddish or bronzy green colour that will droop or hang limply off their upright petioles.  They become firmer and stand almost level with the end of the petiole as the season progresses turning a deep to bright green colour.  The upper surface is nearly smooth and will have a glossy look.  In sunny areas in the fall, the leaves will be an orange-red to wine-red in colour.  In shaded areas they will lack the bright colours, instead turning a dull tan or light brown colour before they drop their leafs.


Poison Ivy can be found under forests, in the edge of woodlands and meadows in most of southern Ontario from North Bay to Kenora.


Every part of this plant contains a poisonous substance including the roots.  This is an oily resin in the juice of the plant.  This is exposed through broken parts of the plant such as leaves that have been chewed by insects.

Poison Ivy can also be mistaken for Poison Oak because of similar characteristics, but Poison Oak is only found in the southern part of the United States.


Once you've come in contact with Poison Ivy, wash the contaminated areas immediately with soap and water.  This will help remove the toxic oily substance.  Sooner you wash the area, the less likely a reaction can occur.  If a reaction does develop, it can be less severe.


Signs of Poison Ivy can be a light itching, followed by a faint blush on the skin.  The itching sensation will increase and small watery blisters can appear within a few hours to a few days.  Try to avoid scratching or rubbing the blisters.  Apply a smoothing compress made of equal parts of whole milk and water, or baking soda.  This should be applied several times a day for 2-3 days.  You can also apply calamine lotion between baths and applications of compresses.  In more severe reactions you should seek medical attention.