Ivy Leaf Identification

Updated April 17, 2017

Most types of ivy are invasive if allowed to grow freely. English ivy will crowd out native flowers and can kill trees if they are permitted to climb up the trunks. Poison ivy is well-known for the itchy dermatitis it causes and Boston and English ivy can creep up houses into soffits and gutters and even cause structural damage to the walls wherever its roots penetrate.

It is necessary, therefore, to learn how to identify these invasive or itch-causing plants. Most are evergreen vines with leaves that come in shades of green or are variegated.

English Ivy

English ivy is a fast-growing hardy vine. Most common English ivies lack flowers. Leaf shape and size can vary. Some can be deeply lobed while others have more shallow lobes. The leaves are generally dull green with light veins. Mature ivy leaves are more shiny and unlobed. Stems are tough and brown.

Some species may produce yellowy-green flowers during the fall. The flowers are followed by purple-black berries.

Small rootlets protrude from climbing ivies to help them adhere to walls or trees. When ivy vines climb, the small rootlets exude a glue-like substance to allow the vines to attach to almost any surface.

Poison Ivy

Poison ivy identification is crucial to avoiding contact with this itchy plant. Children are commonly told that if there are "leaves of three, let them be"--and this adage is quite true.

Poison ivy is a thornless vine or ground cover that can be found near lakes, streams, forests and roadsides from the Midwestern parts of the United States and Canada all the way to the East.

Poison ivy have three oval-shaped leaflets. Young leaves tend to be light green while mature leaves are dark green and shiny. They turn red in the fall.

Vine forms attach themselves to tree trunks via rootlets. The plant releases a sap when brushed against, and it is this sap that causes itchy dermatitis in most people.

Boston Ivy

Boston ivy is a beautiful, fast-growing creeper with dark, green leaves. Its flowers are virtually non-existent but the berries that follow are bluish black, small and well-loved by birds.

This woody vine can grow up to 60 feet in length. It climbs up walls by means of tendrils which exude a glue so that it can grip onto the sides of buildings or trees. The green leaves turn a vivid red in the fall.

Melanie Ivy

Melanie ivy is a perennial in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) hardiness zones five to 11, but is grown as a pot or houseplant in zones four and below.

It has striking bright green, curly leaves with maroon veins. It is a short plant ranging in height from 3 to 8 inches and in zones where it grows as a perennial, it is drought-resistant.

Grape Ivy

Grape ivy is unusual because it is a slow-growing ivy. It is so-called because its leaves resemble grape leaves.

Grape ivy has pointed, dark green leaves that grow from a trailing stem that can grow up to 10 feet. Grape ivy is a low-growing ground cover which prefers to trail rather than climb. When it climbs, it does so with the help of tendrils. It does not flower but its foliage is so glossy that it looks like wax.

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About the Author

Beverley Burgess Bell has been a professional freelance writer since 1986. She has worked for Medigram, a medical poster and Rodar Publications. She also was editor of "Epilepsy," Canada's national newsletter and wrote for various publications including "Future Health." She has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Concordia University in Montreal.