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Quiz on Poison Plant Reactions

With the long days of summer, this is a great time for people to become more familiar with poison plant reactions.

The patient in the attached photos (below) came in to see me in my Dermatology Clinic this morning, here in Memphis TN. He was suffering horribly from itching.

What does he have?

  1. Shingles

  2. Warts

  3. Impetigo

  4. Poison ivy dermatitis.

If you voted for Poison ivy dermatitis, you’re right. He had had contact with a poison ivy plant.

So I treated him with a prednisone steroid tablet and some steroid cream, and his horrible itching will be much better in a couple of days.

Which of the following photos shows poison ivy? (A-E)

The correct answer is D.

And what clues lead you to that conclusion?

The identification rule is “leaves of three, leave them be.” Poison ivy grows as a shallow vine, with clusters of three leaves in a group. The leaves are often shiny, with saw-tooth like edges, and with poison tips. And the entire plant can cause poison ivy dermatitis, even if it’s dead!

The photo above is NOT poison ivy, It's a rose bush!

. The photo above is NOT poison ivy. It's an ornamental plan!

The photo above IS DEFINITELY poison ivy. IT has clusters of three leaves. Remember: "Leaves of Three - Leave Them Be."

The photo above is what's called Virginia Creeper, rather than poison ivy, because it has clusters of five leaves, not three leaves.

The plant above is NOT poison ivy. IT's a shrug. Poison ivy usually has pointed tips to the leaves, and the leaves are shiny. The leaves also occur in clusters of three leaves, and the plant grows as a shallow vine. Don't pull it.


So being out in nature is fun, but stay safe.

Here are a couple of important pieces of information about poison ivy:

  1. Poison ivy grows as a vine. The rule is “leaves of three, leave them be!” So if that vines has clusters on leaves in groups of three, it’s poison ivy until proven otherwise.

  2. The skin reaction – a type of contact dermatitis – can develop anywhere from 12 days to 12 minutes after contact with the resin of this vine – with a severely itchy, linear streak-like eruption of the parts of the body that come in contact with the vine.

  3. If one is allergic to poison ivy, one is also allergic to poison sumac, and to poison oak, since all three plants contain the same chemical – called urushiol.

  4. Many parts of the U.S. have all three of these toxic plants.

  5. If you’re pulling vines in your yard, consider using a plastic bag, so that you don’t actually touch any of the vine directly. A disposable grocery bag works quite well, to avoid contact with your skin.

  6. If one does get in contact with poison ivy, it’s prudent to wash off any part of the skin that may have contacted that plant within several hours of contact, to cut down on the tendency to develop contact dermatitis.

Above is a photo of myself, George Woodbury Jr. M.D., out in Audubon Park, Memphis, TN, with some of the AmberSoy Soap Gel that my skincare products company, Big River Silk Skincare, manufactures and distributes for people with oily skin and combination skin. But be careful about poison ivy!

My own Dermatology office is with Rheumatology and Dermatology Associates, in Cordova, TN. ( or or 1-901-753-0168). If you would like to find a Board-certified Dermatologist close to you, simply go to the American Academy of Dermatology web site,, then plug your zip code into the “Find a Dermatologist” tab. Never itch in silence!

George Woodbury Jr. M.D. (05/28/2020)

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