Poison ivy, oak, and sumac are found throughout the
continental United States. In general, poison ivy grows east of the Rocky
Mountains, poison oak west of the Rocky Mountains, and poison sumac in the
southeastern United States.
See a picture of
poison ivy, oak, and sumac .
The plants may look different depending on the season and the area
where they are growing. But all of these plants have small white, tan, cream,
or yellow berries in the fall. Their berries can help distinguish them from
harmless but similar plants.
After the leaves have fallen off, these plants can sometimes be
identified by the black color on areas where the oil in the plant (urushiol)
has been exposed to air.
Poison ivy is found
everywhere in the United States except Alaska and Hawaii. It is most common in
the eastern and midwestern states. It is less common outside the United States,
but still found on every continent.
- Usually has three broad, spoon-shaped leaves or
leaflets, but it can have more. The phrase, "Leaves of three? Let it be." may
help you remember what poison ivy looks like.
- Grows as a
climbing vine or a low, spreading vine that sprawls through grass (more common
in eastern states) or as a shrub (more common in northern states, Canada, and
the Great Lakes region).
- Often grows along rivers, lake fronts, and
- Has bright red leaves and white or cream berries in
Poison oak is most common in the western United States,
although it is also found in eastern states. It rarely is found in midwestern
- Has leaves that look like oak leaves, usually
three leaflets but sometimes up to seven on each leaf group.
- Grows as a
vine or a shrub.
Poison sumac is much less
common than poison ivy or poison oak. It is found in wooded, swampy areas, such
as Florida and parts of other southeastern states. It is also found in wet,
wooded areas in the northern United States.
- Has 7 to 13 leaflets on each leaf stem. The leaves
have smooth edges and pointed tips.
- Grows as a shrub or small