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Summer spoilers: a guide to plants that make you itch.

You had a great time playing hide-and-seek in the woods. You devoured the marshmallows you roasted over the campfire. You crawled into your sleeping bag. Then you noticed this little itch. You scratched it. It got worse. And worse. Where did this itch come from?

It probably came from one of the summer spoilers. These three plants can turn a dreamy summer day into an itchy nightmare. Their names even sound terrible: poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac. They contain an oil called urushiol (yoo-ROO-she-all). Most of us are allergic to this oil. It makes us itch. It also causes blisters.

Summer spoilers grow in most parts of the United States. But here's the good news: once you know what they look like, you can usually avoid them. Let's get to know these summer spoilers.


What it Looks Like

Poison ivy leaves have three leaflets (small leaves) grouped together on a stem. The leaves are red in the spring, green in the summer, and red, orange, or gold in the fall.

Poison ivy has green flowers in the summer. It has small yellow, white, or green berries in the fall.

Where to Look

The poison ivy vine grows on the ground, on trees, and in bushes.


What It Looks Like

Like poison ivy, poison oak leaves have three leaflets on a stem. The leaflets are shaped like oak-tree leaves. They are larger and shinier than poison-ivy leaves.

Where to Look

Poison oak grows in trees, in bushes, and on the ground.


What It Looks Like

Poison sumac grows as a small tree or bush. Its leaves have seven to thirteen leaflets. The green leaflets turn red or orange in the fall. Never eat the white berries on poison sumac--they are poisonous.

Where to ook

Sumac grows in wet places.


Native Americans in eastern North America used a plant called jewelweed to treat poison ivy. They crushed a handful of the plant and applied the juice to the itch. Native Americans believed that a cure for any harmful plant could always be found near that plant.
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1994 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac
Publication:U.S. Kids
Date:Jun 1, 1994
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