It’s springtime and we are on lock-down.  COVID-19 has us at home and restricted from so many places and things that we would normally do for entertainment.  We can’t go to the movies, go bowling, or out to eat at a restaurant. What we can do is go outside and enjoy nature!  The month of May in North Carolina is almost perfect, bested only by October, in my humble opinion at least.

Here at Partners in Learning, teachers and children are looking to spend as much time as possible outdoors. On the playgrounds, we can have only one class at a time, and the equipment must be sanitized between uses. Fortunately, here at our Catawba location, we have fields, woods, and even a creek to explore! However, not everything in nature is our friend, and it’s important to know how to recognize Poison ivy. There are a few “impostors” that we also need to be aware of, so we don’t kill off all the vines and trees we see, in our efforts to protect ourselves from the painful rash that Poison ivy brings.

In order to help you distinguish Poison ivy from other native plants, please refer to the pictures below.  All these pictures were taken behind Building D. What grows here at PIL probably can be found near your homes and local parks as well.  We want you to be safe while enjoying the beautiful spring weather, so hopefully after reading this, you will be able to recognize and avoid Poison ivy. (There is even a quiz at the end!)

Both pictures above are of Poison ivy. There are three leaflets with irregular shaped borders. The leaves are the most distinguishable characteristic, being that they are not all shaped the same. Most plants always have the same shaped leaves, but Poison ivy leaves can have both smooth and jagged edges.  Stems are reddish near the junction of the leaflets and leaves turn red in the fall.  This is a vine, and it often climbs trees.

At the top of this photo is Poison ivy, and below it is English ivy, a safe decorative ground cover.

This is Virginia Creeper, found in abundance in our area. Like Poison ivy, it is a vine and can climb trees, but there are five leaflets rather than three.

This is Vinca, also known as Periwinkle.  It’s usually easy to identify by the lovely violet colored flowers. Like most ground covers, it can become invasive.

Another fast-growing vine is the Honeysuckle. Considered an invasive weed to many, there is no denying the sweet smell of Honeysuckle in the springtime.

The wild grape, with its delicate tendrils, is often used for making wreaths and other crafts. It has a distinct leaf pattern that shouldn’t be confused by most with Poison ivy.

This is Box Elder, which is actually a type of maple tree.  The shape of the leaves on young saplings look very similar to Poison ivy. If you think you see Poison Ivy that looks like a small tree rather than a vine or bush, look up and see if it’s just saplings of the larger Box Elder growing above it.

Now that you have learned the many types of plants that might be confused with Poison ivy, let’s see if you can find the three different types of vines in the next picture.

There is English Ivy, Poison Ivy, and Virginia Creeper in this photo. Can you find all three?

– Joanne Stewart, for Partners in Learning


<< Back to the Blog