Anyone who has grown up catching poison ivy and poison oak knows how frustrating it can be to deal with. Many sleepless nights from itching and scratching have been spent by the victims of these two plants. There are, however, some differences between them.
How They Look
They are similar in the fact that they both have ‘compound leaves.’ These are multiple little leaflets that are all tied together to make up one leaf. The difference when trying to define these two from other plants, is in the number of leaflets.
Another thing to watch for is a dull or waxy sheen on whichever plant you’re identifying. The substance that causes the sheen is the active toxic ingredient that causes the itchy rash and reaction – Urushiol. The oil exists on every part of both plants, from the roots, berries, flowers, stems, and leaves.
There is an old saying’ if you see leaves of 3 then let it be’ and poison oak fits the category. This rash causing menace is a hard one to spot. It has an excellent ability to camouflage itself and blend in perfectly with its surroundings. It has fuzzy leaflets with edges that are more jagged and tooth-like than it partner poison ivy. It also sprouts berry clusters, some green, some white, and some yellow. It can grow as either a vine or a shrub and always blend in with what’s around it. It is more prevalent on the West Coast or in the Southeastern states on the East Coast.
The ‘leaves of 3’ theory holds true with this one as well. The only drawback to this old saying is that lots of other plants look the same way and won’t cause the same itch reaction. Eastern poison ivy usually grows in vine that is rope-like. Western poison ivy is more like a shrub and can be found anywhere within the United States, with the exception of California and only a few southeastern states. This plant usually has shiny green leaves, but in the fall they can turn from orange to red and hints of yellow.
Tips and Protection
If you have found a patch of these plants near your home or hangout and are thinking about burning them – DON’T. If you inhale the smoke from the fire you could experience a very severe allergic respiratory reaction. The best way to get rid of them is to call in a professional. They know how to get suited up and take care of those pesky plants. They pull it up by the roots.
Another option is to find some herbicides that are effective in treating poison oak and poison ivy. These can effectively kill the plants, but also have the potential to kill other plants as well. Anytime the roots of these plants is left intact, there is the possibility of it springing back up.