Western Poison Ivy – Poison Plants

Poisonous Plants In Las Vegas – Western Poison Ivy

Western Poison Ivy in Wild

Most everyone that’s spent any amount of time in the outdoors can conjure an image in their mind of the sprawling, vine-like plant known as poison ivy. Perhaps they’re even unfortunate enough to recall a time they contracted the rashes, blisters, and incessant itching associated with poison ivy’s dermatitis. What you may not be familiar with is poison ivy’s rare, but equally toxic cousin, western poison ivy.

Not So Ivy-Like

Those unfamiliar with western poison ivy (Toxicodendron rydbergii, for fans of scientific classifications) may disregard it as just another desert shrub. While the western variant keeps the name ‘ivy’, it’s not actually a sprawling vine. Instead, it grows in bushes that can average three feet high and, in ideal conditions, can tower up to ten feet tall.

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Western poison ivy does keep the characteristic three-leaf pattern of its cousin, with two of the three leaves being asymmetrical on close inspection. Another key difference, however, is that the western variety produces small, light-green pods of fruit that come bunched together under the leaves.

As Poisonous as Ever

When it comes to toxicity, western poison ivy is no different from its eastern cousin, containing the same toxic compound – urushiol. Urushiol is an oily allergen that’s common to several poisonous plants in North America, such as poison oak and poison sumac.

Western Poison Ivy

Being that urushiol is only present in the plant’s resin canals, the plant itself has to be broken or bruised for it to come into contact with your skin. Walking or moving through the plant can certainly do this, but the compound can also be released onto the exterior of the leaves and stems from other animals or insects. There the oil can rest until an innocent hiker brushes up against it.

The effects of urushiol oil usually take between 24 and 72 hours to begin. Typical experiences include redness and swelling, along with intense itching, followed by blisters. The allergen can be spread further on a single individual from scratching and rubbing and to other people through skin-to-skin contact, so it’s best to treat a reaction as soon as possible. Reactions generally clear up within ten days.

Tending a Poisonous Reaction

For those that spend a lot of time outdoors, or in a garden, it’s almost inevitable you’ll come in contact with poison ivy, no matter the variety.

The best line of defense against coming in contact with it is to immediately wash the area with soap and water. Take care to not use soap that contains lotions or oils, as they can spread the Urushiol and make matters worse. It’s also recommended that any clothing that came in contact with the plant also be washed.

Poison Ivy - Western

Beyond the initial cleaning of the area, approaches are as varied as they are novel, and can include morphine, kerosine, buttermilk, and even cream and marshmallows. There’s also a plethora of over-the-counter remedies made specifically for the allergic reaction of poison plants that can help alleviate the symptoms.

While it’s important to prevent spreading the allergens – both to yourself and others – it’s also good to keep in mind that, while uncomfortable, poison ivy is usually more annoying than harmful. However, if a serious reaction does occur, don’t hesitate to see your doctor.


Stay Far Far Away From Western Poison Ivy