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Eastern Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans)

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Summary

A perennial woody vine that can cause an unpleasant and dangerous allergic reaction following contact with its sap. Widespread and abundant in much of its range, and highly variable in appearance.

Range - Expand

This map is based on the FHWA's ERA. This data overestimates native ranges, especially around the edges, as this post explains. We have not yet reviewed this map.

USDA Plants Profile for Toxicodendron radicans

Illinois Wildflowers Page for Toxicodendron radicans

Fire Effects Information System (FEIS) Article for Toxicodendron radicans

Description

This species has wildly variable characteristics in different habitats. A deciduous woody vine climbing by aerial rootlets, leading older vines to have a hairy appearance a little similar to that of English Ivy. In the absence of suitable structures to climb and sufficient light, sprawls across the ground. Sometimes forms thickets or colonies by long underground rhizomes.

Leaves alternately arranged on stems, divided into three (very rarely more) leaflets. Center leaflet on a long stalk, lateral leaflets with short or no stalk. Leaflets irregularly toothed and lobed, ranging from entire, to a few deep lobes, multiple shallow lobes, or numerous coarse teeth. Leaflets, especially those in sunlight, are often shiny.

Branches, including both those originating from the ground and from high up on a structure, usually have an irregular, curvy shape.

Young growth often has a reddish tinge to leaves and stems that usually vanishes as leaves mature.

Leaves turn bold yellow, orange, and red colors in fall.

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Habitat

A common plant found in a wide range of habitats, including moist to dry conditions, full sun to moderate shade, and a variety of soil types.

Most common in woodlands, especially at gaps and edges, and where dead trees have allowed it to climb to reach high-light conditions. Found in more open habitats as well, including growing low to the ground in prairies and other grasslands, on rocky outcroppings, and in forest and shrub communities of sheltered coastal sand dunes. Common in floodplains and wetlands, although limited to sites spared from prolonged flooding.

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