How To Identify Poison Ivy and Other Poisonous Plants

In the US the three most commonly accounted poisonous plants are poison ivy, oak and sumac.  Nevada, Alaska and Hawaii are the only three states where these poisonous plants do not grow. They contain an oily substance called urushiol which sticks to everything and can remain potent for years!

About 85-percent of people are allergic to these plants and will suffer a painful dermatitis if they come into contact with them. Some people may experience a severe allergic reaction.

They are also extremely toxic if ingested or if burnt and the smoke inhaled.

Learn how to identify these plants in order to avoid contact.

Poison Ivy

Most commonly found in Eastern coastal states. Can be a vine or a shrub.


  • 3 leaves
  • ⅓-inch to 3-inches.
  • Solid green
  • Smooth edged
  • Pointed
  • In Spring- yellow-green
  • In Fallyellow and red.
  • May have white berries.

Poison Oak

Most commonly found in the Southern and rural Western states.

Grows as a shrub in Eastern states, as long vines or in tall clumps on the Pacific Coast.


  • Solid green
  • More round than Poison Ivy
  • in sets of three
  • Underside lighter with hairs
  • May have yellowish-white berries.

Poison Sumac

Less common than Poison Ivy or Poison Oak. Usually found in bogs and swamps.

  • Tall shrub or small tree.
  • Leaf stem has 7-13 leaflets.
  • Black or dark brown spots.
  • May have yellowish-white berries.


  • Rash develops in 12-48 hours.
  • Rash lasts 2-3 weeks


  • Wash copiously with soap and water.
  • Apply Calamine Lotion at regular intervals.
  • Or try Epsom Salts or bicarbonate of soda.
  • Avoid touching and spreading the rash.
  • Oral antihistamines may help, but do not apply topically.

Severe Reactions

  • Difficulty swallowing or breathing.
  • Large or multiple rashes or blisters.
  • Rash on face or genitals.
  • Swelling, especially of the eyelids.


  • Go to the Emergency room immediately.
  • Take a steroid such as Prednisone.


Alex Kafure

Alex Kafure

As South Floridian native, my first camping experience was right along the beach in the Florida Keys. Since then, it's been nothing but exploring what the rest of the world has to offer. From moving to the Pacific Northwest to now residing in Costa Rica, I've had the chance to experience all kinds of environments. The question that always lingers in my mind is, "where to next?" I can't wait to find out.

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Camping Is Easy® was founded by lifelong friends who shared a passion for both the great outdoors and the gear required to enjoy it to the fullest. Erik & Alex now travel the world searching for the best camping spots all while reviewing the products they use along the way. Thanks for visiting!

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