Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac Information Center

Is This Poison Ivy?

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Submitted by:  Robert Stipe
Date Submitted: 5/30/2003
Location: central Indiana

Question Asked:

Answer: Hi Robert -

I blieve there are at least 2 and probably 3 different vines on this particular tree on your property. If you look closely there is the 5 leaflet Virginia Creeper lurking under some of that poison ivy. This plant is distinguished by its palmated leaf (resembling the palm of the hand). This is a relatively harmless vine but invasive (and fairly easy to get rid of). The 3 leaflet leafes which predominate in the picture seem to be poison ivy. I can't see the vine itself (I can for the virginia creeper) but the rest of the characteristics are correct for poison ivy. There appears to be a 3rd vine here but I can't make out enough of the vine and leaves to tell you what it is.

One way to deal with these plants is to cut out a large chunk of the vine near the base of the tree. For poison ivy, the recommendations are generally at least 12". Be sure to pry up and remove the chunks you just cut. Do not use powered tools to cut - a regular bow saw will work fine. You don't want to send little bits of leaves, vine, urushiol oil into the air and onto you. Once the vines die off, you can work to pry off the tree. The virginia creeper will come off easily. I've pulled whole vines still living off trees. The poison ivy will be problematic as it clings tightly to host trees with aerial rootlets. You'll have to pry that one off. If you leave the dead vine long enough (a few to several years), it will fall out of the tree. As for the 3rd possible vine - it doesn't look like it's much of a clinger and may be hanging on by slender tendrils or twining so that should be easy to pull away as well. Be sure to wear long sleeves, pants, heavy duty rubber gloves, good boots to protect yourself while pulling this stuff away. Do not compost. Do not burn. Put these vines into a refuse receptacle (I do heavy duty trash bags) so as to not contaminate anyone else. The urushiol oil is contained in the leaves, stems, vine, and roots of the poison ivy plant so you'll want to take care. Also, be sure to dig up as much of the root up as possible otherwise it'll be back next year. See our control section for more tips.