Poison Ivy – How to Identify and Remove From Your Yard

As the spring and summer growing seasons get into full swing you may notice an unwanted addition to your garden – Toxicodendron radicans – or Poison Ivy. Although a native plant to North Carolina, few gardeners embrace or encourage the growth of this plant, and while not everyone is allergic to the plant, this can change over time, with allergy developing as a result of repeated exposure.

You may have heard the phrase ‘leaves of three, leave them be’ referring to the common identifying feature of poison ivy being its three leaflets. Unfortunately, many plants have three leaflets. One plant that is often confused with poison ivy is another native plant Parthenocissus quinquefolia – or Virginia Creeper. When mature, Virginia Creeper develops five leaflets, but as it is leafing out or putting on new growth it looks very similar to Poison Ivy.

Poison-Ivy Virginia-Creeper

(Left: Poison Ivy, Right: Virginia Creeper)

Poison Ivy also varies in appearance with the seasons. New growth is deep red, as is the plant’s fall color. In winter, when dormant, the plant is most easily identifiable because of it’s large quantity of aerial roots.

New-Growth Roots-During-Dormancy

(Left: New Growth, Right: Aerial Roots During Dormancy)

Once you’ve identified Poison Ivy you can begin the process of removing it. Like many vines, poison ivy doesn’t flower or fruit until it changes from juvenile to adult form, which occurs when the plant begins to climb. Once the plant fruits, it will spread even more prolifically throughout your property.

The first step to limiting the quantity of Poison Ivy on your property is to make sure that you don’t have adult forms of the plant that are in the process of fruiting. Cut the climbing portions of the vine to remove all fruit, and carefully bag and dispose of the cuttings.

Adult-Poison-Ivy-with-Fruit

(Adult Poison Ivy with Fruit)

Juvenile portions of the plant can be pulled by hand or sprayed with RoundUp. Remember that RoundUp is only effective during warm temperatures, when the plant is actively growing. Even with careful and thorough removal, some of the plant may come back from rootstock, so keep an eye on areas where you have previously identified Poison Ivy so you can perform routine maintenance.

Need help with landscape maintenance or other projects? Contact Bright Leaf Landscaping at 919-475-1015 or fill out our online contact form. Design and installation are our expertise, and we are always happy to meet with new clients to discuss potential projects!