How to Identify Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac
Learn What Poison Oak Looks Like
Leaves of Three, Let it Be
The one thing that doesn't vary for poison oak is the pattern of three leaflets branching from a single, independent stem. Two leaves are attached directly to the stalk opposite each other. The third leaf juts out from them at a right angle, so the three-leaf pattern forms a triangle. There are no additional leaves on the same stalk.
The leaves may be serrated, round, or oak-like depending on what other foliage is around the poison oak plants. They may be shiny—or not. They may have a red tinge—or not. Be wary, or you're in for a week of itchy torture.
The plant itself may be seen as single stalks close to the ground with three leaves. Or a bush. Or a vine climbing a tree. You can see poison oak plants growing in all of these ways within a few feet of each other.
This photo is an example of poison oak growing profusely, almost as a hedge. You might think it was just another shrub as you passed by it at the street corner. This poison oak has rounded leaves rather than oak-shaped leaves, so you might not immediately think it is poison oak. But if you see that it has three leaves (and only three leaves) on each stem, that is your signal that it is poison oak.
Video: Identifying Poison Ivy and Oak
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