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Poison ivy “looks similar” to Virginia creeper

Virginia creeper and poison ivy

People are frequently confused by these two plants when they are first learning to identify poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans). Although the individual leaflets are similar, Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) has five leaflets to each leaf while poison ivy has three. Let’s make some other comparisons between these “looks similar” plants.

Starting in the spring, here are photos of each plant as it begins growing new leaves:

The leaves of Virginia creeper become green as they mature:

Here’s a full-sized Virginia creeper leaf with its five leaflets. Note the leaflets all meet close together in the center of the leaf.

In contrast, poison ivy has the three leaflets and the center leaflet has a petiolule (a longer “stem’):

Here’s a cluster of poison ivy along the ground . . .

. . . and some branches of it growing up a tree’s trunk . . .

. . . to a leafy canopy of poison ivy within a tree’s leaves:

Here are three examples of Virginia creeper growing along the ground . . .

. . . and climbing a tree’s trunk:

As poison ivy’s berries develop, they are in a cluster. Eventually, the berries will turn white.

The developing Virginia creeper berries, which will turn dark purple with red stems when ripe, look like this:

The leaves of Virginia creeper turn rosy and yellow as they age in the fall:

Similarly, poison ivy’s leaves also turn rosy and golden in the fall:

When poison ivy climbs a surface, it develops a “hairy” stem which is most evident during the winter season.

Hopefully, this comparison has assisted you in developing a strong mental image of poison ivy (a hazardous plant) and Virginia creeper (which looks similar). And perhaps you will now be better able to identify poison ivy in all seasons of the year.

35 Responses to Poison ivy “looks similar” to Virginia creeper

Angelyn,
Thank you for the information on poison ivy. Very helpful and excellent photographs!
Margaret

I agree with Margaret. Thank you very much for the well-written, greatly illustrated article! I had taken pictures in the woods I frequent of a plant I suspected of being poison ivy in hopes of taking them home to identify it. Your article was the first I came across, and I have now positively identified the plant as poison ivy and don’t have to continue researching. I am grateful. Kudos!

Thanks for the pictures of the poison ivy I am highly allergic to it. I hope to remember the pictures so I don’t get near it. What types of plants counter act it’s affects. You mentioned counter acting agents in your web cast on poisonious plants ? Thanks for all the help.

Billie, the remedy which works for me is Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis or I. pallida). I use it two ways: (1) Crush the plant’s juicy stem and leaves and rub the plant matter and juice on the skin area where I just came in contact with the poison ivy. This helps prevent getting a poison ivy rash. (2) Make jewelweed ice cubes which I then apply to a poison ivy rash to help it heal quickly. The coolness of the ice helps, too!

To make jewelweed ice cubes. . . Gather a bunch of the plant and place it in a pot with water. Heat the material and let it steep for 20 minutes or so. Strain out the plant. Pour the jewelweed infusion into ice cube trays and freeze. Store the jewelweed ice cubes in the freezer for months. (I’ve kept them for a year — until the next jewelweed season.)

I haven’t tried jewelweed for the rash. I’ve locked that one away for future use if (heaven forbid) I need it some day. I just suffered from the rash a couple of weeks ago, so I thought I’d share what cleared it up…faster than Calamine lotion. I took a (garden grown) cucumber, sliced a thin slice of it, and smeared the juice from it all over the affected area and left it to dry on. This cooled the rash and as it dried on it dried the rash out as well. Took about 4 days to clear the rash up completely!

I am also allergic to poison ivy. We found Roundup for Poison Ivy at walmart and it seems to kill it.

Someone on YouTube gave it a great metaphor. When it gets you, assume that everywhere the plant touched you is covered in axle grease. Use Dawn and COLD water. Dawn for the oil removal and cold water so the oil doesn’t get into your pores as much. This should PREVENT it to a point.

Thanks for the pictures. They were the best ones I’ve seen on the net. I wish you could tell me what to use in my flower beds to get rid of the stuff. I am highly allergic, so pulling is out of the question.

kay, I have heard that using salted boiling water is one way to kill poison ivy. I’ve tried this a couple times in the past — with moderate success. I’m not sure that I succeeded in killing the root. And I have recently learned that this method can also kill other plants because the soil has now become salted. Hhhmmm.

I, too, have a bad response to poison ivy. So when I find some which absolutely needs removal (my vegetable bed, for example), I wear long sleeves, long pants and gloves. I carefully dig the plant (and its roots!) with a shovel and maneuver it into a bag for disposal. I work slowly and mindfully to avoid any personal contact with my clothes or the handle of the shovel. Then I wash all my clothes, and if I feel it is appropriate, take some of the rhus tox homeopathic.

If you believe that is too risky for you, I suggest hiring someone else to pull the plant and its roots — or find a willing friend who does not have such a strong response to poison ivy.

You should only spray the salt water on the leafs . one or two applications should do the trick . I have only occasionally had the plant come back from the roots . If so just reapply .

To make the salt water solution ; Heat the water just below boiling , add salt until it no longer dissolves . place the mixture in an atomizing container and spray on the leaves .

Thank you for the very helpful information with photos. I now am certain that I have Virginia Creeper growing up my porch post.

Thank you so much for these pictures! My grandmother was letting virginia creeper grow rampant and I thought it was poison ivy. With much arguement I gave into her and believed it was ok. After she passed, I proceeded to pull it out! While it definately is Virginia Creeper I am still Definately allergic to it! I have broken out in a very bad full body rash. Taken the shot, steroid pills, and creams and also spent a ton of money on the Technu body clensers. My daughter had great success with the Technu wash with poison ivy, cleared it up in two days. I think rubbing in the stuff actually spread mine. The wash did nothing and the shot and creams are slow working and the rash is still spreading!! Please still observe caution with Virginia Creeper. So thankful I know what it is exactly now!

Be careful, I have poison ivy growing in with my Virginia creeper. Our old family cure for poison ivy is to coat it with a thick layer of bar soap which has sat in water until the under side has become soft. This seals the poison ivy infected area and dries it up in only 2-3 days. Also helps reduce the itch, so much more effective than calamine lotion.

I would rather roll around in a whole pile of poison ivy than mess with Virginia Creeper. I am not allergic to poison ivy. It generally has no effect on me at all, and the only time I’ve ever been effected by it is when I’ve worked in it all day and (without thinking) scratched itches, rubbing and pushing the oils into my skin! Even then, I’d only get a very mild rash that wouldn’t last long, maybe a day or two. Be aware that if you are allergic to it, you are allergic to the urushiol oil, btw, so do not burn the plant or vines as the smoke will be irritating to you, and do not attempt to deal with the plants without protection even in winter as the oil is still in the vines/roots even when dormant (I’d guess that it’s safer then, but I have known people to still get it by cutting the roots in the dead of winter, no leaves on the plant!)

Unlike poison ivy, Virginia creeper is ok if you do not get the sap on you. It probably won’t get you if you only brush against it. However, I had several trees being strangled by the junk … a walnut tree and a beautiful Japanese maple… and I decided to wage war. Everybody told me that it was a ‘safe’ vine. I also counted on my history of not being allergic to plants (I don’t press my luck, but I do not react), and I thought I was safe. Well, hours later, I had cut and yanked and decimated these vines and managed to save two or three trees. And soon (within another couple of hours) found myself covered in horrible painful rashes. At first I thought that it had to have been poison ivy and that I’d developed an allergy… but it’s not the same thing. Upon researching it, I learned that this plant has calcium oxalate crystals in the sap. These things crystalize from the sap and cut/embed themselves in your skin like tiny bits of glass. Anybody is susceptible as it is physical damage, not an allergy. Also, because it’s like a large ‘open’ wound(s), you are vulnerable to infection from other contaminants as well… and let’s face it, you’re in the garden, you’re going to have dirt on you. I looked like I had actual burns covering my arms and neck!

Anyway, I am not an expert or a doctor or anything, but I had, sort of accidentally, done the right thing treating myself, even before I knew I had the rashes(!), by hosing off (totally soaked myself, clothes and all) before going inside, and immediately hit the shower. After the rashes started appearing, I also resisted any harsh ‘home remedies’ that might have further damaged my abused skin. I used bactine and anti-itch cream, which burned, so I switched to neosporin instead. I ended up going to the doctor who prescribed an antibiotic cream and a course of prednisone (corticosteroid) to help me through the worst of it. Basically, I just had to wait until the spines cleared out of my skin. Many showers were taken!

As I said… bring on the poison ivy… roll roll roll… !! Be careful cutting those vines! I think that, had I been wearing long sleeves and long gloves, I’d have probably been ok, but I was in a short sleeve tee on a hot day. Bad idea.

Poison ivy “looks similar” to Virginia creeper Virginia creeper and poison ivy People are frequently confused by these two plants when they are first learning to identify poison ivy (

Weeds with 5 leaves

Virginia creeper is a perennial deciduous woody vine. The leaves are compound, containing 5 leaflets in a palmate arrangement. Leaves range in size from 2- to 6-inches and have toothed margins. The leaves are red when they first emerge, but turn green as they mature. The leaves turn a bright red in the fall of the year and are often confused with poison ivy. However, poison ivy has only 3 leaflets; Virginia creeper has 5. Virginia creeper can reach heights of 30 to 50 feet. Virginia creeper spreads by seeds deposited by birds. Also, vines spread by attaching tendrils containing adhesive disks on the tips. The stems will root if they come in contact with soil. Flowers are small, inconspicuous, and white/green in color. Small pea size berries, blue-black in color, are produced in the fall. The berries develop on red stems and will stay on into the winter providing food for birds. Virginia creeper is native to the eastern United States.

Weed Photos: Courtesy of Dr. Lambert McCarty . Clemson University. Clemson, SC.

Herbicide Use

For optimum control, make your herbicide application to Virginia creeper that is young and actively growing. Due to the woody nature of the vines and spreading habit, better results may be obtained with an oil base ester product. Fall clean up using an ester herbicide will provide effective management.

WeedAlert.com features detailed color photos of over 100 weeds allowing turf professionals to search and identify weeds by name, appearance or region. Detailed information about each weed includes description, non-chemical cultural practices in how to control the weed, geographic coverage maps of where they grow and when they are prevalent in the various growing zones, as well as herbicide use and recommended control products.