Fun fact: I am UNBELIEVABLY allergic to poison ivy. Like, probably-should-carry-an-epi-pin kind of allergic. And apparently some house plants as well such as the philodendron. When I was a kid, I got into the poison ivy more than a few times, and it was baaaad. I'd manage to somehow cover myself from head to toe. But you know how it is when you're a kid, you pretty much roll around in the stuff without really knowing it.

Fast forward to adulthood...So thanks to the wonderful resource of, let's have a look-see into what the differences are in these three plants.

Let's start with good old Poison Ivy. Poison ivy is a generally a small plant, close to the ground that has three reddish, slightly tear drop shaped leaves, with a slightly jagged, but not sharp edge. Now, the exact appearance can be affected by time of year, but the shape will always be consistent. Here's a photo:

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Poison Oak is another little leafy jerk of a plant that grows all over the place out west. So it is kind of the trick question here for us Mainers. You hear people talk about it all the time, but I can't recall anyone actually being diagnosed with it. However, it looks an awful lot like poison ivy, but a bit different. So likely, lots of folks have seen photos, but it was probably poison ivy they were seeing. I'll show the photo here, so you can see the difference between the two.

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Now, Poison Sumac is a different story. This plant does grow here quite abundantly here in Maine, in wet areas near streams, rivers, lakes, bogs, and all-around swampy areas. It's more of a tall shrub compared to poison ivy, which tends to grow closer to the ground. Although, poison ivy can climb and cover. Poison Sumac also has tear drop shaped, waxy looking leaves with some small little flowery looking things on it as well. Scope this photo to see what I'm talking about.


There are numerous ways you can combat the amount of poison ivy on your property. Check this link here, if you want to know a bunch. And naturally, if you're working outside in the yard, you should always protect yourself if you think there's a lot of it where you're trying to do some outside work.

In fact, it's a lot like tick prevention. Wear long pants, don't have any exposed skin on the lower parts of your body especially, and when you come inside from working in the yard near some, immediately throw your clothes in the washer and hop in the shower. The oil itself from the plant can last for years too. For instance, maybe you mowed over some last fall, and are cleaning underneath your mower in the spring...BOOM! you could totally break out with it again.

If you touch one of these plants and you know it, you have about a 30 minute window to wash up. After that, the oil will take hold and you'll need to just wait and see at that point. To wash it off, you'll want to start with cold water and soap. The soap can actually help spread the oil over your body. Once you're done with the cold water and alcohol, then take a shower.

It's definitely an old wives tale that the rash can be spread by touching someone with blisters. There is no oil in the skin blisters. However, that person may still have clothing, car seats, or other surfaces that may be affected, so watch out for those things.

At any rate, it's just one more thing we have to shove into our memory banks to keep track of as we try to enjoy outdoors in Maine this summer. Ticks, mosquitoes, black flies, poison's a lot, but like I said about the ticks, it's better than tornadoes, rattlers, and scorpions!