You may have heard the saying “leaves of three, let it be.” That’s because poison ivy typically has three broad, spoon-shaped leaves. The plant can grow as a ground cover or as a thick, hairy vine on trees. In the fall, poison ivy has red leaves and cream or white berries. The highest concentration of urushiol is in the plant’s berries and flowers.
Poison oak grows as a vine or shrub, and typically has leaves in clusters of three – but can have up to seven leaves in a group. As you might expect, poison oak leaves look very much like oak leaves. In the fall, they’re accompanied by small berries that are light in color: Tan, white, yellow or cream.
Poison sumac is much less common in Tennessee than poison ivy or poison oak. It looks like a small tree (or shrub) and grows most often in wet, wooded areas, like stream banks. The plants can grow as high as 15 feet and their leaves have smooth edges and pointed tips that grow in groups of seven to 13 per stem. In the fall, the plants grow small white or cream colored berries.