What Do Poisonous Plants Look Like?
Poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac are three of the most common types of poisonous plants found throughout the continental United States. Each type has a distinctive appearance. If you come into contact with these plants, contact our dermatologists right away for treatment.
The poison ivy plant is found throughout the country, but it appears differently in each part of the U.S. In the East, Midwest, and South, poison ivy grows as a vine, while in the northern and western parts of the country, it grows as a shrub. Each poison ivy leaf has three leaflets. A wise rule to remember when identifying poison ivy is, “leaves of three, let them be.” The plant has bright-green leaves that turn red in the spring and yellow, orange, or red in the fall.
The poison oak plant looks similar to poison ivy — both have leaves with three leaflets — but poison oak has rounded tips. Poison oak leaves have an underside that is fuzzy and much lighter in color than the top portion of the leaf. Poison oak grows as a shrub, and it is more commonly found in the western United States than in any other region. The shrub can have either white or yellow berries.
The poison sumac plant grows as a woody shrub with each stem containing pairs of 7–13 leaves. Poison sumac can be distinguished from non-poisonous sumac varieties by the appearance of its berries. Poison sumac has drooping clusters of green berries. Harmless sumac has red berry clusters that grow in an upright direction. Additionally, poison sumac is more common in wet, swampy areas, such as the southeastern part of the U.S.