If you’ve heard the saying “leaves of three let it be.” You probably know I’m talking about Poison Ivy. Many of us think of Poison Ivy as being something we should worry about when hiking or camping in the wilderness. Something we should watch for when duty calls and you might decide to detour off the beaten path. It’s not something we have in the city. Right?


Poison Ivy is far more common than you might think. As someone who is highly allergic and who has also spent more than the average time in the woods, I can spot those leaves of three from a good distance away. Poison Ivy is found all over the city if you know what you are looking for. In my neighbourhood, not only am I the crazy plant lady, but I am the one people ask to identify poison ivy.
Deciding to tackle an overgrown area of your property without taking a good look at what plants are mixed in, can lead to much discomfort. Trust me, if there is some Poison Ivy, and you are unfortunate enough to be among those that are allergic, you will know it in 3-10 days. Unexplained, crazy itchy bumps that seem to appear out of nowhere when you can’t remember doing anything that might have caused the rash


What does it look like?

The photo shows what Poison Ivy often looks like here in the city. However, it does take on different shapes. It can trail like a vine or grow like a bush ranging in height from about 30cm (12”) to a very healthy 90cm (36”) – try wading through that on an unused trail while trying to avoid touching the leaves! The leaves can be serrated like the photo or wider with smooth edges. There might be red or white berries or there might not. All the variations do make it hard to identify.

I’ve even found large healthy vines growing up trees in the middle of an open city park! Luckily you can report these sightings to the city and they will take care of it. However, if you think you have some on your property, it’s a good idea to remove it promptly. If you don’t have a crazy plant person living in your neighbourhood, Google Lens is a great app for helping with identification. Ultimately though, if you are in doubt, treat it like Poison Ivy and err on the side of caution. Better safe than terribly itchy!

How to remove it

This can be a bit tricky depending on how much you have and how nervous you are. Home improvement stores sell herbicide sprays specifically for killing Poison Ivy. These are great since they will also kill the root but do take some time to work their magic. If you decide to dig the plant out, wear disposable gloves and cover your skin. If you do happen to come into contact, wash the area with soap and cold water (to close your pores). If you do notice a rash, seek advice from a pharmacist. They can help you find a good anti-itch treatment. 

One more word of warning. The oil from the plant can transfer from pets or shoes or gloves to your skin. The good news is if you get the rash often enough not only do you become proficient at identification, you also recognize the rash faster and the sooner you treat the area the less serious your reaction will be.