What I'm Seeing Now


'Tis The Season, For Poison Ivy

Well, it's spring and that means, please sing along, 'tis the season, for poison ivy.

Poison ivy, the bane of every Boy Scoutmaster and scout camp in history!

It's easily identified.  Just three leaves.  Then there are the sayings, "Leaves of three, leave it be..."

Well, not so fast!  There are a lot of threes out there that are not poison ivy.

So, which is the poison ivy?

Hint:  The upper left?  Nope.  The upper left is pachysandra, a very aggressive ground cover in shady areas.

Hint:  The right center?  Nope.  The round plant on the right is a May Apple.  It produces little, edible apples in, um, wait, it's coming to me, oh!  In May.  (Scoutmaster hint:  wait until they are really ripe or they are bitter.  Even ripe a little sugar helps.)

Hint:  the lower right center?  Nope.  That's wild raspberry.  It will grow fast, tall and have very sharp thorns on it.

Hint:  the left center?  Nope.  That is a wild, shady creeper.  Scouts mistake it all the time for poison ivy.

No hint:  the upper right center!  I put a very thin red circle around it in case you missed it!

Poison ivy truly has three equal leaves, but they are a deeper green and shiny. 

The shininess comes from an oil in the leaf, called URUSHIOL OIL.  That oil classifies poison ivy as a TOXICODENDRON.

It is a true ivy, with rhizomes that shoot out underground, springing it up as what looks like a single plant nearby.  When it climbs trees it has the big, hairy root.  It is parasitical.

If you brush up against it, and the oil has enough time to bond, and a few hours is all it takes, you can get it.  Some people are immune and do not get the skin rash, but that is only about 20% of us.

What do you do if you think you may have come in contact with poison ivy?  Wash as soon as possible with COLD WATER and dishwasher soap.  That soap is formulated to remove grease and oils.  DO NOT use hot water, which opens the skin pores.

What do you do if you get the poison ivy rash?  Over the counter treatments will not shorten the itching time!  You will be affected for about two weeks!  All the over-the-counter poison ivy creams and lotions are basically useless.  Calamine lotion makes things feel better because it contains alcohol which makes the affected area feel cool for a while, but it can crack your skin.  Hydro-cortisone creams might feel better for a while too, because they shrink the rash blisters.  BUT YOU WILL STILL HAVE THE RASH FOR ABOUT TWO WEEKS.

The doctor might prescribe a steroid, or give you a shot.  But it likely won't shorten the itchy time either.

Iffn' yew wont sum genrul buuk lernin', click here.  (That is true Southern Virgininian dialect and authentic)

My recommendation:  when you see poison ivy in its very young state, get rid of it.  But pulling it might not help because of its rhizome shoots.  Spray it with an herbicide and it will not come back.  And good luck!  No touchy.



Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560


Comment balloon 44 commentsJay Markanich • April 14 2012 03:13AM


We have a neighbor highly sensitive to PI...gets it every year....and that can be from the wind blowing in the right direction...you don't necessarily even have to touch it....calamine is the decoration of an itchless day.

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Real Estate Agents - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) over 8 years ago

Jay,  This brings back all too many memories of the results of walking in the woods.  I was always highly allergic and would end up covered with the stuff.  It's torture!  Now I KILL IT!!!

Posted by Sara Homan, Realtor, Homes, Farms & 55+ (Coldwell Banker Ellison Realty 352-209-4044) over 8 years ago

S&D - my brother used to get it every spring and the doctor said it was in his blood.  He had to wear rubber gloves to bed to prevent spreading it!

Sara - that's the best plan.  It is a true ivy and can grow quickly and take over.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

I get calls all the time from residents with reports of poison ivy and it is VIRGINIA CREEPER

Posted by Wallace S. Gibson, CPM, LandlordWhisperer (Gibson Management Group, Ltd.) over 8 years ago

Great topic, especially now. I got poison Ivy once, when I was a teenager, it has stayed away from me ever since, you'll understand why in a moment. I remember going in our home and my dad spotted this rash that was on my hands. He said he had the solution. We went into the garage, took a rag and covered it with gasoline and rubbed it all over the rash. He told me not to wash it for the rest of the day. By evening no more rash, how crazy.

Posted by Joe Petrowsky, Your Mortgage Consultant for Life (Mortgage Consultant, Right Trac Financial Group, Inc. NMLS # 2709) over 8 years ago

Yuck poison ivy...got to stay away from that stuff. I personally have never encountered the evil of it.  Its a good thing  you have a picture because we would definitely forget about it.

Posted by Cheryl Thomson REALTOR Army Ret, Associate Broker in Northern Virginia ( United Real Estate (703.216.5635) cheryltee47@gmail.com) over 8 years ago

Morning Jay there were times back in my younger days I could pick that stuff with the bare hands roll it around and nothing would happen.  Not anymore but there are things as I grew in age I can't do <sigh> it's a sign of aging.

Posted by James Dray, Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results (Fathom Realty) over 8 years ago

Creeper makes a great salad Wallace.  Kidding...  stick with dandelion.

Never heard that one Joe!  Well, if it works, it works!

There are a lot of plants that look like it Cheryl, but only one really "evil" one - your word!  Well, there's oak and sumac too, but we have no poison sumac in Virginia.

That was true for me too James.  I have not tried it since becoming adult though.


Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

I guessed wrong. 4 times. Thanks for the education. I find that my reaction to poison ivy gets stronger every year, and I guess I never took the time to really learn what it looks like!

Posted by Wayne and Jean Marie Zuhl, The Last Names You'll Ever Need in Real Estate (Samsel & Associates) over 8 years ago

I am the Scoutmaster for the local troop, and we switched summer camp locations because there was just so much Poison Ivy at one camp. No fun spending a week watching every step you take, especially in the middle of the night. 

Posted by Scott Seaton Jr. Bourbonnais Kankakee IL Home Inspector, The Home Inspector With a Heart! (SLS Home Inspections-Bradley Bourbonnais Kankakee Manteno) over 8 years ago

I guess you should just remember to wear gloves when gardening.  But getting it from oils on your clothes makes me scared!  Hope you have an itch-free summer!


Posted by Kathryn Maguire, Serving Chesapeake, Norfolk, VA Beach (GreatNorfolkHomes.com (757) 560-0881) over 8 years ago

Oh gosh, I hate poison ivy and I had some really bad cases when I was a kid.  One time is was so bad and all over my face and eyes and I refused to go to school.

Posted by Debbie Gartner, The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers (The Flooring Girl) over 8 years ago

What memories I have of poison ivy!  As a 9 year old I, for whatever demented reason, rolled all around in poison ivy and ended up under a doctors care; wrapped in bandages and soaking in a tub with whatever the doctor had my mom add to the water.  Oh my poor mother.  It was in my mouth, it was everywhere.  It was several weeks before I could go back to school and than I got sent right back home.  I was all full of scabs and despite the doctors note that all was well the teacher wasn't having any of it.  I haven't had poison ivy since.  Ugggggg.

Sue of Robin and Sue 

Posted by Robin Dampier REALTOR®, Hendersonville & Western NC Real Estate Source (Coldwell Banker King) over 8 years ago

Poison Ivy and I are not compatible.  I'm one of those who can walk close to a plant and then break out.  Okay I know technically that's not true but once exposed I'm a goner.

Posted by Cindy Jones, Pentagon, Fort Belvoir & Quantico Real Estate News (Integrity Real Estate Group) over 8 years ago

Hello Jay,

My husband is an expert at spotting poison ivy...me, I am not very good at spotting it so I stay clear of the woods and avoid it altogether!

Posted by Lisa Von Domek, ....Experience Isn't Expensive.... It's Priceless! (Lisa Von Domek Team) over 8 years ago

Jay, just another great reason to live in the NW :)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 8 years ago

W&J - you would not do well on our Scout Camp poison ivy trail!

Scott - the first thing we do at camp is the Poison Ivy Trail!  That way they can see what it is and isn't, and even then they get it!  We go to Goshen and Snyder.

On your clothes and your pets Kathryn!  The oil is pervasive.

Debbie - my brother got it really badly and I never got it.


Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Wow, Sue, that sounds awful.  I bet your teachers thought you had something exotic and awful!

Cindy - technically you're right, but if you get it, you get it!

Lisa - seems easier to just learn what it looks like!

Charlie - you have poison oak out there, but no sumac or ivy.  Or so says my Scout manual.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Jay, I have heard the "leaves of three" ... but never knew what poison ivy looks like.  I know my mother-in-law will touch it while clearing weeds at our cottage every few years, thanks for the new knowledge.

Posted by Chris Smith, South Simcoe, Caledon, King, Orangeville Real Esta (Re/Max Chay Realty Inc., Brokerage) over 8 years ago

Now you are informed Chris.  And stay away!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Jay- I'm showing these pics to Larry, my husband, who is forever getting poison ivy while out hiking or kayaking.  

Posted by Kathy Streib, Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224 (Room Service Home Staging) over 8 years ago

Well, bring him along Kathy!  Once people learn to identify it they usually can stay away!  The leaves on that ivy up there are about the size of a quarter.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

The dang stuff has caused me angst all of my life.  Poison Ivy is why I don't walk banks to fish, only fish from boats. 

I've had such terrible outbreaks, it spreads on your body, I've been on steroids for weeks. 

BTW, the leave are shiny when in sunlight. 

Stay away, stay away.

Folks may be walking around in shorts when it's hot out.  Not me.  I've got on long pants and they go in the washing machine upon entering my home. 

Dangerious stuff.

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) over 8 years ago

We Scoutmasters are very, very familiar with this stuff Lenn.  It can wreak havoc on Boy Scout camp as at the end of the week, when they need to be finishing up their merit badges, everyone is getting treatment despite being shown and told about the ivy.  It is shiny, as the post says, because of the oils.  The oils are the problem!  One of my least-fave plants!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Good morning Jay,

I've been aware of the three leaves all my life because I am very allergic to this plant! We always played in the creeks on our property and crawled the banks..every spring and summer..the same thing..rashes that went all over my body..not fun!!

Posted by Dorie Dillard CRS GRI ABR, Serving Buyers & Sellers in NW Austin Real Estate (Coldwell Banker United Realtors® ~ 512.750.6899) over 8 years ago

Thanks for the info, Jay.... great post....my grandchildren are victims of this plant every summer...

Posted by Barbara Todaro, Marketing Agent for The Todaro Team (RE/MAX Executive Realty ) over 8 years ago

Dorie - the rashes are not fun, and unless a doctor is involved you are stuck for a couple of weeks!

Barb - for sure!  It is pervasive east of the Mississippi (which, I understand, has four eyes but cannot see).

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Jay, Our property is surrounded by woods, so we have to keep a close eye out for it in the treeline and take it out quick.  And of course you have to keep your eyes out for it when showing houses.  Sandals aren't a good idea, especially if you suddenly realize you're walking through what looks to be a field of the stuff!

Posted by Liz and Bill Spear, RE/MAX Elite Warren County OH (Cincinnati/Dayton) (RE/MAX Elite 513.520.5305 www.LizTour.com) over 8 years ago

I'll always guess on the side of safety for anything even closely resembling the stuff! I tangle with it every year in the shrubs of our back yard. Some years worse than others, eyes all swollen as somehow I must have touched my hands to my face. Healthy fear of the stuff as I can see from everybody above that has met this little plant! thanks for more education on the topic!

Posted by Craig Daniels, Technology Instructor/Project Consultant (Tech Training for You!) over 8 years ago

I used to be immune until the last couple of summers. I have found if I'm in the garden and get some on me, I can eliminate(or lessen)it's effect by rubbing dry dirt on it(to soak up the oils ?).

Posted by Michael J. Perry, Lancaster, PA Relo Specialist (KW Elite ) over 8 years ago

Jay, if it has three leaves I stay away from it. When you are paranoid, it all looks like poison ivy.

Posted by Michael Setunsky, Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA over 8 years ago

Good lesson, Jay. I had several trees removed a few years back and a few were loaded with poison ivy. Even though my tree guys had their skin protected I still made them wash exactly as you suggested .. COLD water and dishwashing soap.  Be aware and be prepared!  Thanks for the post.

Posted by Barbara Altieri, REALTOR-Fairfield County CT Homes/Condos For Sale (Kinard Realty Group Fairfield and New Haven County CT Real Estate) over 8 years ago

I was wondering if it was the season walking in the woods last Thursday.  I think I must not be allergic to poison ivy or just lucky to never have been exposed to it.

Posted by Maureen McCabe, Columbus Ohio Real Estate (HER Realtors) over 8 years ago

Thanks, Jay, for sharing this information. I posted in on my Facebook timeline.

Posted by Roy Kelley (Realty Group Referrals) over 8 years ago

Many a day as a kid I would enjoy the scratchiness of finding the poison ivy patch. So in fond memory of this (thank you) how on earth am I this old??? (lol)


Posted by David Shamansky, Creative, Aggressive & 560 FICO - OK, Colorado Mtg (US Mortgages - David Shamansky) over 8 years ago

Great reminder...my home backs to wooded property, and the kids are always wanting to venture there, now I'll have the reminder of what to look out for.

Posted by Ellen Caruso (Daniel Gale Sotheby's International Realty) over 8 years ago

Once again I have bookmarked your post.  I used to have to get shots as a kid - and even now I can't even pull weeds in my flower garden if I don't want to get poison ivy. . . thanks for the great information

Posted by Joy Daniels (Joy Daniels Real Estate Group, Ltd.) over 8 years ago

Bliz - good advice.  I have seen realtors with cute sandals and shorts get poison ivy before after an inspection.

Craig - try to get it when young.  Those leave above are about the size of a quarter.

Michael P. - I have never heard that and would not want to experiment to find out!

Mike S. - that's probably the best advice of all!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Barbara - it especially likes trees.  Yep, cold water!

Maureen - it is!  And it only worsens from here!

Thanks Roy!  Exposure, exposure, exposure... but not to poison ivy!

You won't find much peace with a poison ivy patch, Peace!  Stay away, you old fogie you.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Ellen - it is an easy lesson - the three equal leaves are a good sign, and one to avoid.

Erica - teach them to avoid it an hope this is the only case this year!

Thank you Joy.  My brother had to get the shots.  As a kid I was immune, but I have not tested it lately!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Good stuff, Jay.  Thanks for the reminder.

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 8 years ago

Jay, I am so allergic to this stuff!  And I am so careful when I'm around anything that is green with three leaves, including clover!

Posted by Patricia Kennedy, Home in the Capital (RLAH Real Estate) over 8 years ago

I'm so alergic if I see someone with it, say the word 3 times or probably even from reading this post I get it. My 8 year old daughter just had her first case. My 10 year old son who was in the same woods with her never got it. I didn't kiss her goodnight for a week. We did air kisses!

Posted by Sherry Chastain, Realtor, Selling Homes, Lake Properties,Luxury Homes,Short Sales (Hendersonville, Nashville, Old Hickory, Lebanon Tennessee) over 8 years ago

Now you can remember what to look for when you take your fishing hut off the lake Reubs...  and know what not to mix in your woodland salad.

Pat - I coached my son's soccer team for a few years when he was little.  To keep the kids from running around before the game, in the bushes and such near the field, I would have them all lay in clover to look for four-leaf clovers!  They rested and had some fun.  I said that if we all found one we would win the game...

Sherry - that is how it spreads, by itching it or touching the liquid that comes out of it.  Good idea with the air kisses!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

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