English Ivy in yard with long staircase

Spot The Difference Between English Ivy and Poison vines like Oak and Sumac

Our backyard is green all year, which makes it difficult to tell the difference between English Ivy and poison vines. Our english ivy alias hedera helix is intermixed with Poison Ivy, Oak and Sumac. While we enjoy all of the greenery and the benefits it brings us, it can be a bumpy relationship if we don’t pay attention. Literally. So every spring and summer we need to manage these pesky plants to keep the benefit (slowing down erosion).

Maintaining English Ivy and the Poison plants Ivy, Oak and Sumac

Every year controlling english ivy can be a job in and of itself to ensure that our property does not get overgrown. The previous owner did more spraying of round up to control the plants growth. While we do use some chemicals we also use a walk behind brush hog to maintain the property. You can see the blog post on this subject here “Trim up English Ivy fast”. You want to ensure that the vines do not mature to the point that they don’t produce english ivy berries.

I have also used a weed eater to take care of the overgrowth, especially on the hill where our Hill Cart lives. That area has a rather steep incline but is easier to navigate.

English Ivy and poison vines on hillside that is intermixed with poison oak and sumac.
Our back yard with our lovely Beechwood Tree and English Ivy

Can you tell the difference between English Ivy and Poison Ivy?

English ivy up close

Yes… remember English Ivy’s leaves looks like a “normal” house plant that the leaves can be dark to light green. Poison ivy has the phrase “Leaves of three, let it be”. They look like small oak leaves in groups of three.

Can you get a Rash from regular English Ivy?

Yes indeed, many people have an issue with all types of Ivy. You may have some people in your family who don’t have any problems at all with these plants. However, you may find you’re highly allergic.

What is the best way to protect yourself from Poison Ivy?

Keep your skin covered with long pants, a long sleeve shirt and wear gloves if you are working in the yard or going for a hike. Throw those items in the washer as soon as possible to remove the oils from the plants

What can happen if you come in contact with Poison Ivy or similar poisonous plants?

The Mayo Clinic has this explanation:

“Poison ivy rash is caused by an allergic reaction to an oily resin called urushiol (u-ROO-she-ol). This oily resin is in the leaves, stems and roots of poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac. Wash your skin right away if you come into contact with this oil, unless you know you’re not sensitive to it. Washing off the oil may reduce your chances of getting a poison ivy rash. If you develop a rash, it can be very itchy and last for weeks. You can treat mild cases of poison ivy rash at home with soothing lotions and cool baths. You may need prescription medication for a rash that’s severe or widespread, especially if it’s on your face or genitals.”

What you may not know: English ivy or Hedera helix, is a climbing evergreen plant that can thrive in cold and low light situations. This plant, while not as “poisonous”, can still cause an allergic skin reaction and rash. So either way, if you enjoy the look like we do you still need to take precaution. Most of us end up with some type of rash after working in the yard. Mainly during spring and summer.

Side by side What does English, Poison Ivy, Poison Oak and Sumac Look like?

I always have a problem remembering what they all look like – who knows why… I only remember the phrase: “Leaves of Three, Let Them Be.”. However I never remember what they actually look like. Here is a spot I can come back to easily for reference.

Keep this chart in mind the next time that you are out and about in your yard or taking a hike. I have already had two cases with a small rash this year. The girls also (which it never bothered them before) had a slight reaction. So we need to keep an eye on it. What a royal pain.

IF you come in contact with any type of vine with bare skin, you want to make sure to wash the area as quickly as possible. These vines contain oil that once it starts to penetrate the skin can take a couple of weeks to deal with the rash. I do know of some people that none of these plants bother them. How lucky is that? For us the ONLY thing that seems to work is Calamine Lotion or Hydrocortisone Creme. Hopefully we will also recognize more of the poisonous versions in our yard and be itch and rash free. This chart is one way to remember.

Until next time!

2 years ago

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