Poison ivy is a woody vine that is well-known for its ability to produce urushiol, a skin irritant which for most people will cause an agonizing, itching rash.
Poison ivy grows vigorously throughout much of North America.
It can grow as a shrub up to about 1.2 m (4 ft) tall, as a groundcover 10-25 cm (4-10 in) high, or as a climbing vine on various supports.
Older vines on substantial supports send out lateral branches that may at first be mistaken for tree limbs.
The reaction caused by poison ivy, urushiol-induced contact dermatitis, is an allergic reaction.
For this reason some people do not respond to the "poison" because they simply do not have an allergy to urushiol.
However, sensitivity can develop over time.
For those who are affected by it, it causes a very irritating rash.
If poison ivy is burned and the smoke then inhaled, this rash will appear on the lining of the lungs, causing extreme pain and possibly fatal respiratory difficulty.
If poison ivy is eaten, the digestive tract and airways will be affected, in some cases causing death.
Urushiol oil can remain viable on dead poison ivy plants and other surfaces for up to 5 years and will cause the same effect.