Here’s a brief introduction to identifying poisonous plants and treating their poisons.
You may remember the old saying, “Leaves of three, let it be.” That’s still excellent advice. Poison ivy plants usually have clusters of three broad leaves shaped like spoons. Once you know what it looks like, it’s easy to spot—and you’ll spot it everywhere. Poison ivy can be a vine or a shrub; the vine can grow low to the ground or it can climb on fences or trees, so you have to keep an eye out for it constantly. See Figures 15.1, 15.2, and 15.3.
Poison oak gets its name because its leaves look like oak leaves—slender leaves with scalloped edges. The leaves grow in odd-numbered groups of three, five, or sometimes seven. In the spring it produces yellow-green flowers that become berries of a similar color in the summer. Like poison ivy, it can grow as a vine or a shrub. See Figures 15.4 and 15.5.
Poison sumac can be a tree or a shrub, and can grow quite tall—20′ or more. Typically the foliage is not very dense. As a small plant, the leaves grow upward but the branches sag down as the plant reaches full height.
Leaves grow in parallel pairs up the stem with a single leaf at the end of each stem. Stems can be red, brown, or gray, depending on the age of the plant. The leaves have an oval shape that comes to a point at the ends. As with any deciduous plant, the leaves change color as the seasons change. See Figures 15.6, 15.7, and 15.8.