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Weird Poison Ivy

Weird Poison Ivy

By Dan Boelman, Zanfel Laboratories

One thing we find frustrating when reading articles on the topic of poison ivy and poison oak is when this line gets regurgitated over and over: “Poison ivy and poison oak have three leaves but can sometimes have as many as five to seven leaves.” We’ve seen over and over where this creates confusion and leads people to misidentify five-leafed vines (like Virginia creeper) as poison ivy.

To set the record straight, poison ivy and poison oak have three leaflets per leaf, which is where the phrase “Leaves of three, let them be” comes from. They have a three-leaflet pattern very nearly 100% of the time.

It is extremely rare to find a poison ivy or oak plant that has more than three leaflets per leaf. Like one in 100 billion.

Below are some examples of these exceedingly isolated cases of extra poison ivy leaflets:

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Five-leafed poison ivy found in Concord, MA. Photo courtesy of Jim Byler, The Poison Ivy Guy.

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Five-leafed poison ivy found in Philadelphia, PA. Photo Courtesy of Umar Mycka, poison ivy horticulturist.

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Five-leafed poison ivy found in Des Moines, IA. Photo courtesy of Dan Boelman, Zanfel Laboratories.

All of the above were positively identified as poison ivy by professional poison ivy removal service providers, and some were also verified by using a See-Leaf urushiol detection wipe. (

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