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While mucking about in my (new) yard, I found a bunch of plants that I believe are poison ivy (three shiny leaves, aggressively tendriling vines, and the bigger leaves have the little "mitten" indentation. No berries that I've seen). There's quite a lot of it, and some of the vines are encroaching onto the driveway. It seems unusual that the previous tenants wouldn't have noticed this - they did a lot of gardening - so I'm questioning whether my identification is right.

Can someone confirm whether this is poison ivy, and if it's not, tell me what it is?

I'm in Western Massachusetts, so we definitely have poison ivy in the area.

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I'd say yes, it has all the markers we have available at this time of year. Terminal leaflet larger than the other two, terminal leaflet has stalk, the others not. Leaflets pointed, edges bumpy and sometimes indented. Looks very close, you can wait for flowers and fruit which would provide further confirmation if that is possible or of interest. But note that flowers and berries may or may not appear; in my area there are lots of patches of poison ivy but they always seem to be vegetative, producing flowers and berries rarely.

Poison ivy is very persistent. It could be that the previous owners tried to keep cutting it back but it re-grew and they gave up. I had a patch that I could mow and eventually got it under control, but it still comes back during dry spells when mowing is not generally necessary. Note mowing is not usually recommended (I don't seem to be sensitive to it, yet), the effects can be serious, but I sense you know this already. Thick gloves and pruners might help.

Investigate with your local suppliers whether there are any chemical approaches that are permitted and suitable in your area. Safety first, especially if there are children.

  • I am not so sure. Normally, I would expect white berries, off white flowers and I always know when they turn red towards the end of the season. That being said, why risk it right? – Rob Aug 13 '18 at 20:23
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    I added a note in the answer about flowers and berries. Here we see them rarely. – Colin Beckingham Aug 13 '18 at 21:00
  • That is interesting, in my region they almost always flower or grow berries at some point in the season (berries usually early). Is it safe to say that regardless of the region they are going to go red? Apparently, I did not know as much about them as I thought I did... – Rob Aug 13 '18 at 21:11
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    I'd say it's definitely poison ivy, based on the bat-wing shaped leaves. I've been around this a lot, but seem to be one of the fortunate few who are immune to it. BTW, carry some alcohol-based Wet Ones/baby wipes with you when you walk in that area. If you break a leaf/stem, immediately wipe the area, then wipe off the alcohol. Alcohol is useless on the rash, though, and may even make it worse. – Jurp Aug 13 '18 at 23:15
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    I've seen berries on vines up the street, but perhaps these plants are just not ready to bear fruit? Regardless, thanks for the confirmation! – avp Aug 14 '18 at 15:02
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This looks like poison ivy. Good for you to catch this! I would use good old glyphosate, Round up. Don't spray it, use rubber gloves and with whetted finger tips apply to a few of the leaves. I would of course cut those plants back allowing a good 2 feet of vine and healthy leaves to treat.

Get those thick black rubber gloves made for chemicals. That will protect you from the chemicals of poison ivy and you can dip into the glyphosate to whet a couple of fingers but not 'dripping'...wipe onto healthy leaves you've left after cutting the vines back. Wait three weeks and do it again to whatever healthy leaves are left? Cut all the way back for winter. Rake up debris like crazy.

In the spring, keep an eye out for new shoots. Treat those shoots. Don't eat them! Some people think eating poison ivy will make one immune to poison ivy. That is just nuts. This might take a year or two to get under control. Teach your kids what to look out for asap. They will be living with this stuff after all...it will be everywhere.

how to kill poison ivy

  • Thanks! My dad is pushing for the glyphosate, too, but I hate putting chemicals in my yard, and don't mind the effort of pulling up the plants (thus far, I seem to be one of the lucky ones who doesn't react to the oils - but I'm still wearing gloves as I do so!). I've never heard of someone eating the shoots - that's insane! – avp Aug 14 '18 at 15:05
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    In this case, it's chemical a vs chemical b. I find that a glyphosate wetted paper towel works well. – Wayfaring Stranger Aug 14 '18 at 16:56
  • @avp Glyphosate as I was taught is not one of the 'bad guys' in the world of pesticide chemistry. Wayfaring suggested paper towels to whet a few leaves and I wish I had thought of that! Smart. Treat glyphosate like bleach. Just one drop on the leaves of an herbaceous plant could kill it. One drop of bleach will ruin a lovely dress? We are talking about a gnarly plant. Most important thing of all is to NOT let them produce flowers, seed. Just cutting them off at the ground will slowly 'starve' these plants. Glyphosate is like a little ninja killing the plant from the inside. – stormy Aug 14 '18 at 21:02
  • And this chemistry does not linger in the soil. It doesn't leach either. I am with you, I can simply pull up weeds. But this is no 'simple weed'...this as well as a few other weeds need some heavy handed control. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service. They might have 'programs' to help and definitely advice that fits your locale. – stormy Aug 14 '18 at 21:05
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    249 Million is what I've heard. This law suit is simply wrong. Out of all the dang pesticides that we homeowners have access, this one is a good one. Cancer. Makes me so very angry, when that dude was drinking fluoride all his life from tap water...THAT was far more likely to cause cancer than stupid glyphosate. – stormy Aug 15 '18 at 1:31

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