Salem Maritime National Historic Site
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  • Poison Ivy

    Poison Ivy

    (Toxicodendron radicans)

    Virginia Creeper

    (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)

    Learn more about poison ivy

    Audio Transcript

    As you’re on the Nature Trail, make sure to watch out for poison ivy. Poison ivy has 3 distinct leaflets, sometimes with a shiny or red tinge to them. This plant can grow as a hairy vine that crawls across the ground or climbs up trees, or, as a small shrub. If you’re not sure if something is poison ivy, remember that if it “has leaves of three, leave it be.”

    A plant that’s commonly confused with poison ivy in another vine species called Virginia creeper. Virginia creeper has 5 leaflets instead of 3, and is completely safe to touch.

    As bad as poison ivy might seem to us, it’s an important component of the ecosystem. Poison ivy produces white berries in the fall, at a time of year when most plants lose berries. The berries are an important food source to several bird species like the American robin, found at Saugus Iron Works. Poison ivy is an example of a “producer,” which we’ll talk about at the next stop.

    If you do touch poison ivy by mistake, it’ll be okay, just make sure to wash with plenty of soap and water to remove the plant’s oils.