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Indentify Poison Ivy

Does poison ivy adapt its look to what's around it in the forest? I have a forest (about 1/3 of an acre) in my backyard. I'm working each summer on clearing the buckthorn and garlic mustard from it, but keep encountering poison ivy. Unfortunately I find out afterward. I'm familiar with the 3 leaves of green plant, but wonder if it can look different at different times of the summer or depending on what it's around?

While poison ivy doesn't take on the look of its neighbors, it does present itself in a variety of ways.

Most often we see it as a spreading carpet in the woods. It's also capable of vining up trees, walls and fences. This woody perennial can also grow to take on a shrub-like form. The familiar compound "leaves of three" can have toothed, lobed or smooth margins. New spring growth is often reddish. Summer leaves are green and can be glossy or smooth. Fall color is yellow, red or orange.

All parts of the plant are poisonous - alive or dead. It could be that you encountered remnants of plants you killed previously. Urushiol is the toxic oil found on poison ivy that causes reaction in people. Any tools, clothing or even pets that come in contact with poison ivy can indirectly contaminate because the urushiol is transferred through secondary contact. This oil can remain potent for several weeks after contact.


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