Identifying Poison Ivy
Poison Ivy Identification
No one has pulled out as much Poison Ivy as our team here at Poison Ivy Patrol Specialty Landscaping, so we know its ways. Poison Ivy is a real shapeshifter and a master at blending with its surroundings. But there are some characteristics that it cannot hide. If you have something that you think might be Poison Ivy, take a close look and follow these steps to know for sure.
- Poison Ivy always has three leaves or leaflets. If it doesn’t have these, it’s not Poison Ivy. There are two outer leaflets and one leaflet in the middle.
- Poison Ivy doesn’t have serrated edges (like teeth on a saw). Its edges are smooth and are pointed at the tip. It doesn’t have thorns either.
- It may have a thumb. In the photo on the left, look for the red outline of the thumb on the outer leaflets. There are some varieties of PI that don’t have the thumbs, but thumbs are a common characteristic.
- Notice that the middle leaflet has a longer stem than the two-side leaflets. It’s like a long neck. On the left is a drawing by our friend Umar Mycka showing the long neck. He has also created a great cartoon series about a team of super heroes fighting the evil forces of poison ivy!
- Poison Ivy leaves are a deep red when newly born, gradually turning green as they get bigger. In early spring they are oily, practically dripping with urushiol, the source of allergies and rashes. As the leaves get older, they will lose the glossy look, and get dull and faded. You still don’t want to touch them! In late summer and fall, they turn pink and yellow.
- Poison Ivy is happiest, and most abundant in the shade, but they do just fine in direct sun too. The leaves are a lime green in the sun and dark green and bigger, in the shade.
- Poison Ivy needs to climb up something in order to reach maturity. As it gets higher up a tree, branches will develop and then berries, then seeds.
Protection and Treatment of Poison Ivy Rash
We work in this stuff every day. After 6 hours of sweating in haz-mat suits, we’re literally soaking in it! Here’s how to protect yourself like the pros!
If you’re working around Poison Ivy wear long sleeves or even 2 long sleeve shirts. You can get thick rubber gloves at Home Depot. Although they won’t be as good as ours, it will get you through the day. Don’t kneel in the soil because the oil is still in the dirt and it will soak through your jeans. When you’re done you can throw everything in the laundry. That’s what we do every day. Wash your arms every hour with regular dish soap. Dish soap is probably 90% effective and very inexpensive.
When you’re done for the day, wash up with Mean Green Power Hand Scrub. You can only get it from Amazon. Mean Green is 95% effective and not expensive. You should always keep it on hand as your primary defense strategy. Use a washcloth and scrub hard. Don’t forget the spaces between your fingers. Mean Green will probably work for all but the most sensitive people. And if you’re that sensitive, we should talk!
If you still break out, you’ll have to go to almost any pharmacy and pick up some Zanfel. Zanfel is a whole lot more expensive so you only want to use that if the Mean Green didn’t work for some reason.
The key to this is to wash off the urushiol right away. As soon as you even think you might be feeling itchy, rub Mean Green on thoroughly for a couple of minutes and it should heal overnight.
The next day, if it is not any better, go for the Zanfel. If you’re extra sensitive, go right for the Zanfel. There are other products out there that contain the same active ingredient. We haven’t had a reason to try them so we can’t recommend them.
Remember that you can be spreading Poison Ivy around before you know you have it. The longer you wait to rub any of these products on, the more severe your rash will be!