“Leaves of three, let it be.”
(Poison Sumac has leaves in clusters of
seven or 13; most plants with leaves
in clusters of three are dangerous.)
Know your poisons! It can save you all sorts of discomfort.
Poison oak has three leaves shaped in lobes that look like oak tree leaves. Poison oak grows in low shrubs in the eastern U.S. On the west coast, poison oak grows as vines.
Poison ivy has three pointed leaves that change colors with the seasons: reddish in the spring; green in the summer; and yellow, orange, or red in the fall. The leaves on some plants have notched edges while on other plants, the edges are smooth. Poison ivy can grow as either a vine or a bush. You may see the vines climbing up the sides of trees. Poison ivy plants sometimes have white berries. Many poison ivy plants look like Virginia Creeper, which has five-leaf clusters instead of thee-leaf clusters.
Poison sumac is most common in the Midwest, though it is found elsewhere. Its favorite habitats are bogs, swamps, and the shores of rivers. The plant itself can be either a shrub or a tree. It has pointy leaves in clusters of seven or 13 and clusters of small, yellow flowers that mature into clusters of glossy yellow or off-white berries..
If exposed to the poison from these plants, you have a short window during which the poison can be washed off with no ill effect. This window varies y individual, but is generally around ten minutes. Soap and water work; there are also special soaps for washing after exposure to poison ivy. (Burt’s Bees Poison Ivy Soap) This product can also be used to clean gear or pets that have been exposed to the toxin from poison ivy; the poisonous oil is very sticky and can remain potent on an object or piece of clothing for up to five years if not washed off.