June 8, 2021

Leaves of three, let it be

Here’s how you can identify poison ivy (and why you should avoid it)

You may have heard “leaves of three, let it be.” But, do you know what it means? Poison Ivy, Toxicodendron radicans, is a plant that grows as an herb, shrub, or climbing hairy vine. The leaves grow in groups of three with leaflets that usually have one side with large teeth and one side that‘s smooth.

The entire plant is covered in a chemical called urushiol, which is what makes it poisonous. When you touch the plant, some of the chemical crosses onto your skin and after about 8 hours you get a red, bumpy, itchy rash. If you think you touched poison ivy, gently wash that part of your skin with cold water and change out of any clothing that touched the plant.

Though you don’t want to touch it, poison ivy is an important part of the forest. In the spring and summer deer and insects eat the leaves and local bees and flies pollinate the flowers. In the winter, poison ivy berries are important food sources for birds.

Keep your eyes out for poison ivy while you’re enjoying the outdoors, but don’t touch!