Poison ivy can be an erect woody shrub or a climbing vine. The leaves alternate on red stems. They are glossy and have 3 leaflets 2- to 3-inches long that can be smooth or toothed; leaves turn red in the autumn. As with other members of the Rhus family (poison oak and poison sumac), poison ivy can cause severe skin irritation. The yellowish flowers of poison ivy form in clusters in the axis. The flowers have five green petals and are usually inconspicuous. Poison ivy forms a small creamy white berry in the fall containing a single seed. Berries generally remain attached to the stem through the winter. Poison ivy spreads by rhizomes and seeds and prefers shaded areas. Poison ivy has a fibrous root system. Poison ivy is found throughout the midwestern, northern and eastern United States.
Young poison ivy plants less than a foot tall with only a single stem can be physically removed with little difficulty, especially in the spring when the ground is soft. Gloves should be worn to avoid allergic reaction. No part of the plant should contact skin. Burning is dangerous. Poison ivy rarely infests mowed turfgrass areas, but could become a problem in infrequently mowed golf course roughs, as well as in fence lines and along rock walls.
Large, well-established poison ivy infestations can be a problem to remove either mechanically or chemically. A series of post-emergence broadleaf herbicide foliar treatments may be required to conquer a large poison ivy infestation. Poison ivy vines which have become well-established in trees can be practically impossible to eradicate without herbicide damage to the tree. In these situations an ester herbicide labeled for mixing with oil for a basal stem treatment may be required. For optimum foliar control, make your herbicide application to poison ivy that is actively growing and in the first trifoliate leaf to flower stage of growth.