Danger! Do not touch! All parts of the plant produce a powerful skin irritant.
Sprawling or climbing vine. When climbing produces sucker roots that attach firmly to supporting tree. Leaves not opposite each other, with 3 leaflets. Leaflets sometimes with a few large teeth, or wavy edges. Reddish when young and in autumn. Flowers small, greenish, 5-petalled, easily overlooked. Blooms in early summer. Fruits small, round, dirty whitish, in autumn.
Native vine. Prefers somewhat shady areas and thickets. Somewhat common througout Wildwood. We try to keep it down around the trails, but it would be impossible to eliminate it. Despite its terrible effects on humans, it is harmless to other species and the berries are important food for many birds.
Everyone should learn how to identify and avoid this plant since it is everywhere. The three leaflets and white berries are excellent clues. Hop tree has somewhat similar leaves, but they are toothless and the plant is truly a tree, not a vine. Fragrant sumac also has somewhat similar leaves, but scalloped, and it is a low shrub, not a vine. Box elder sometimes has three leaflets, but most leaves have more than three, the leaves are always opposite each other, and it is a tree, not a vine. Box elder seedlings often have only 3 leaflets and look like poison ivy seedlings, but the opposite leaves identify it. Virginia creeper, sometimes unfairly called 5-leaved posion ivy, is a harmless and attractive vine that mostly has leaves with 5 leaflets. The youngest leaves often have three leaflets, but further back along the vine you will always see leaves with 5 leaflets. Box elder seedlings, Virginia creeper, and poison ivy are all common weeds in people's yards, but careful examination will identify the poison ivy.