Learn To Recognize Poison Ivy In The Winter

This blog post is sure to make you a little itchy. Did you know that Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) can not only give you a rash during the growing season, but in the winter as well? That’s right. Poison Ivy is a twelve month, all seasons, opportunistic rash inducer.

That being said, it is important to be able to recognize poison ivy all year long. Not only do the leaves, flowers and fruits of poison ivy have the oils that cause rashes, the stems and roots do as well, making recognizing it in the winter a little tricky.

Recognizing Poison Ivy During The Growing Season

RightPlantz: Recognize Poison Ivy In The WinterAs most people know, “leaves of three, let it be”, is a good, general way to remember what poison ivy looks like when it is in leaf.

Poison ivy leaves can be present as smooth-edged, or wavy or jagged, and can also appear either waxy and shiny or dull. Additionally, they may be perceived as hairy or be completely smooth. Leaves will be roughly two to five inches long, with the center leaflet having a longer stalk than the side leaflets. In the springtime, the plant will blossom with very small white flowers. Over the course of the summer months, the plant will produce greenish berries. In the fall, the plants leaflets will turn bright red and boast waxy, dense clusters white berries that may last through winter.

Poison ivy usually has three broad, spoon-shaped leaves or leaflets, but it can have more. It may grow as a climbing or low, spreading vine that sprawls through grass or as a shrub.

RightPlantz: Recognize Poison Ivy In The WinterRecognizing Poison Ivy In The Winter

How does one recognize poison ivy without the leaves? There are a lot of vines in the garden and woodlands. Honeysuckle, grape, mile-a-minute, Virginia creeper just to name a few. What separates Poison Ivy visually from the others.

The most common way to recognize poison ivy in winter is by noticing its hairy aerial rooting structures that the plant uses to attach itself to trees and walls. If the plant has been around for a while, the vines may be quite large. The smaller roots often resemble little fibers but the are indeed roots growing into the host tree or structure.

Two items of extra caution:

  • Sometimes Poison Ivy berries will stay on the plant long into the winter. These are edible for birds but not for humans. Do not eat them.
  • Occasionally firewood will come with poison ivy vines attached to it. Do not burn the poison ivy. The smoke from it can cause serious problems on our skin and in our respiratory system.


Growing Better Gardeners is not just our tagline, it is our mission.

RightPlantz is the leading digital marketplace connecting homeowners and garden enthusiasts with local green industry professionals. RightPlantz is where gardening starts. Millions of homeowners around the country search for landscape, lawn care, arborists, irrigation installation and garden centers companies every year. RightPlantz is where green industry businesses grow.