Poison Ivy Weed: How To Identify & Get Rid Of It

What is Poison Ivy?

Poison Ivy or PI (Toxicodendron radicans) is a poisonous plant that can cause skin irritation, blistering, and intense itching. It grows in all regions of the United States and Canada, including woodlands, wetlands, and residential landscapes. The resinous compound called urushiol is found in all parts of the plant and is responsible for the inflammatory reaction when it comes in contact with the skin.

This plant is commonly eaten by many animals, and the seeds are consumed by birds, but it is most often thought of as an unwelcome weed. It is commonly characterized by clusters of leaves, each containing three leaflets; hence the old rhyme “leaves of three, let it be” may be the easiest way to tell if it might be poison ivy.

Proper identification of poison ivy plants is crucial if persons wish to avoid exposure. If contact occurs, washing off with soap and water as soon as possible can help reduce symptoms. Persons should always wear protective gear such as gloves or pants while working near these plants because they can cause significant discomfort if handled without proper protection. So, if somehow you are dealing with this plant, it is very necessary for you to have a detailed overview of it. If so, reading this article would be helpful for you.

Here we will learn all the detailed information related to poison ivy including its characteristics, identification, control, best poison, etc.

Characteristics of Poison Ivy

  • Poison Ivy is a perennial shrub or climbing vine found throughout North America.
  • Its leaves are typically divided into three leaflets,
  • Leaflets are usually oval-shaped with pointed tips, 2 – 4 inches in length, and have notched or smooth edges. The middle leaflet has a longer stem than the two side leaflets.
  • The surfaces of the leaves range from smooth and glossy to hairy and dull.
  • During the early stages of spring, leaves begin to sprout in a reddish hue that eventually transitions into a verdant green as the season progresses.
  • During summer, leaves appear to be green in color and the plant can contain small clusters of either light green or off-white colored berries.
  • When the fall season arrives, leaves take on a variety of vibrant colors, ranging from bright reds to glowing oranges and cheerful yellows.
  • In the winter months, poison ivy will shed its leaves. However, be aware that even without foliage, its vines may still produce the oil capable of causing a rash. So, take caution near this plant.
  • Flowering occurs from August through September with small yellowish-green 5-petaled flowers forming a cluster 1 – 3″ long.
  • In the fall, small white fruits with sunken ribs will form.
  • While it is a beautiful plant, caution must be taken when handling it as its sap contains oil that causes an allergic reaction in many people.

Why Does Poison Ivy Make You Itch?

Poison ivy, along with poison oak and poison sumac, is notorious for its rash-inducing oil urushiol. All parts of the poison ivy plant (i.e. roots, leaves, stems, flowers, and fruits) contain urushiol which if gets on the skin can cause a severe rash. Urushiol binds with the skin proteins within 10–15 minutes, making it difficult to remove.

Wash with water and regular soap will not remove urushiol but will spread around the rash-inducing substance. Even the small amount of urushiol that would fit on the tip of a needle is enough to give 100 people the rash.

This rash-causing oil can also contaminate your gear and clothing. Wildland firefighters often develop poison ivy rashes as the burning plants release a large number of urushiol particles in the smoke, which contaminates firefighters and their gear.

Most people don’t react to urushiol instantly and the reaction time in them varies from 6 to 8 hours and up to 3 days (before the rash occurs). The ultra-sensitive persons may react more quickly.

The longer reaction time provides an opportunity to remove urushiol from the skin before a rash appears or becomes severe.

It is important to check yourself (or other people in the case of plants that grow in especially high places) after being outdoors to reduce the likelihood of coming into contact with poison ivy oils.

How to Identify Poison Ivy?

To correctly identify Toxicodendron radicans, known as poison ivy, it is essential to inspect the leaves of the plant. It has three oval, slightly pointed leaves that emerge from one petiole connected to the main stem in an alternating arrangement. This means one petiole will grow on one side of the stem. Whereas, another petiole will emerge further up the stem on the opposite side.

If your plant has leaves that emerge from two sides at the same point on a stem, then you don’t have a Toxicodendron species. In this case, you likely are not dealing with poison ivy. It is important to correctly identify this particular species so that you can take precautionary measures against the potential harm it may cause to your skin if touched.

Below here I am summarizing the points, which will help you to easily identify poison ivy: 

Leaf Type

  • Compound leaves with three leaflets
  • The middle leaflet’s stalk is significantly longer than the stalks of the two side leaflets.
  • Surfaces might be shiny or dull
  • The edges may be serrated or smooth.

Leaf Arrangement

  • Alternate

Growth Form

  • Climbing vine (poison ivy), or
  • Sprawling shrub (western poison ivy)


  • Inconspicuous, five-petaled, greenish flowers with a diameter of around 3 mm.
  • Flowers emerge from the leaf axil in loose branching clusters


  • Fruits in loose sagging bunches
  • Fruits have only one seed (drupes) and are hard and whitish

How to Control Poison Ivy?

Controlling poison ivy requires special steps to ensure safety. To prevent contact with the poisonous urushiol oil, gardeners should wear protective clothing like long sleeves, pants, and waterproof gloves while working around this plant.

For vines that are small enough to pull or dig out of the ground, go ahead and remove them completely. However, larger plants pose a more complicated problem. Physically removing them can spread the oil to other parts of your skin. In these cases, it is best to use a cut stump herbicide treatment and leave any remaining vines in place. So that they will eventually die and decay naturally in the garden.

Ultimately, monitoring your garden frequently for poison ivy is an effective way of preventing it from becoming a bigger problem and making control even harder.

How to Kill Poison Ivy?

Here we will understand the requirements and the steps involved in killing poison ivy:

What are The Essentials Required to Kill Poison Ivy?

The essentials required to kill poison ivy are as follows:

1. It is important to wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and closed-toe shoes or boots during the removal process.

2. Make sure to wear disposable gloves while handling poison ivy.

3. It is recommended to use soap or an over-the-counter poison ivy cleanser to bathe any exposed areas of the skin after coming into contact with the plant.

4. Pruning tools may be required depending on the nature of the infestation. 

5. Heavy, disposable bags that can be sealed should be used to dispose of poisonous plants and their pieces.

6. Careful selection of herbicides is also necessary to kill poison ivy without harming other desirable plants in the area.

Steps to Kill Poison Ivy

1. When dealing with poison ivy, it is important to choose a non-windy day when rain is not expected for at least two hours.

2. Outfit yourself by covering as much exposed skin as possible and wearing protective gear such as goggles or safety glasses.

3. Wear disposable gloves while handling and treating this plant.

4. If the plant is large you can prune it back a little before treatment, but this is not necessary.

5. Apply a poison ivy control product that kills all the way to the root. You should follow the instructions on the label of the product.

6. Allow time for the poison ivy to die. Typically, it will take 24 hours to see the results.

7. Take caution while disposing of dead plants. They still contain urushiol and should be placed carefully in a heavy garbage bag. After sealing the bag, place it in an appropriate trash receptacle.

8. Burning poison ivy is not recommended. It will release urushiol into the air where it can be breathed in and cause serious health problems.

How to Get Rid Of Poison Ivy?

For gardeners, controlling poison ivy (PI) can be a difficult task. Pulling it from the soil is one way to manage it. However, this only tackles an existing infestation temporarily. Herbicides are often recommended for better control. But this requires careful and repeated application over a long period of time. It is also important to keep soil churning and spread to a minimum, as this can contribute to new growth.

Avoid using trimmers or burners that may spread the urushiol which is responsible for its rash-inducing effects. The best practice is to simply throw PI into the trash rather than a compost pile in order to safely get rid of it.

How to Make Homemade Poison Ivy Killer?

Here we will discuss the ingredients and recipe for preparing a homemade poison ivy killer:

Ingredients Required For Homemade Poison Ivy Killer

  • ¼ cup natural dish soap
  • 3 pounds of salt
  • 1 gallon of water

Recipe for preparing a homemade poison ivy killer

Creating a homemade poison ivy killer using salt and dish soap is an effective way to kill weeds like poison ivy. Salt is dehydrating and will draw moisture from the leaves of the plants, depleting them of essential nutrients that are necessary for growth.

The solution can be prepared by combining salt and warm water together in a container, stirring until completely dissolved. Then after adding some dish soap to the mixture and transferring it into a spray bottle, you can apply it directly to the leaves of the target plants. This will help ensure that roots don’t absorb any necessary nutrients so that they quickly die off.


With this, we have learned everything that one should know about poison ivy i.e. PI. It is a perennial shrub or climbing vine that contains an oil called urushiol, which can cause rashes and other allergic reactions in many people. The best way to avoid getting a poison ivy rash is to learn how to identify the plant and avoid touching it. If you do come into contact with poison ivy, it is important to wash the affected area with soap and water as soon as possible to remove any remaining urushiol. In severe cases, medical treatment may be necessary to alleviate symptoms.

Frequently Asked Questions

When to Remove Poison Ivy?

The best season to remove this plant is in the springtime when its leaves are red and easy to spot.

To remove poison ivy, mainly when you are using an herbicide spray, a dry non-windy day is the safest time. This is because you do not want the spray blowing back at you or onto your other plants, nor do you want parts of this plant scattering around your area.

However, this plant should be removed as soon as you identify it.

What are The Best poison Ivy Killers?

Below is the list of some best poison ivy killers:

1. Roundup Concentrate poison ivy plus tough brush killer.

2. Spectracide Weed and grass killer concentrate.

3. Tec Labs Tecnu original outdoor skin cleanser.

4. Ortho max poison ivy and tough brush killer Concentrate.

5. Eco garden pro-organic vinegar weed killer.

6. Southern Ag surfactant for herbicides.

7. Ortho 475705 ground clear ivy & tough brush killer.

8. Bioadvanced brush killer plus concentrate.

9. Bonide 506 poison oak ivy killer.

10. The Scotts ortho max poison ivy tough brush killer.


1) How to remove poison oak plants and treat a rash – Oregon State University


2) American Museum of Natural History


3) University of Minnesota


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