Difference Between Poison Oak and Poison Ivy

Poison Oak and Poison Ivy are both plants that are found all over the United States. Both of them are very infamous as they cause skin allergic reactions once they are touched. If not taken proper care of and attended with immediate treatment, the reactions may escalate to serious rashes.

 Poison Oak vs Poison Ivy 

The main difference between Poison Oak and Poison Ivy is that the course of treatment which is undertaken to cure the rashes caused by the Poison oak and Poison Ivy, respectively. Also, the symptoms differ at times. Moreover, another difference between them is their appearance. Poison Oak looks like oak leaves, whereas Poison Ivy looks like almond-shaped leaves.

Poison Oak and Poison Ivy

Western poison oak and Pacific poison oak are the two other names of Poison Oak. The scientific name of the same is Toxicodendron diversilobum. It is a shrub, and it belongs to the sumac family. The family is called Anacardiaceae. The leaves have a resemblance to the oak leaves. Poison oak is mainly and widely found in the areas of North America.

Poison Ivy or as scientifically known as Toxicodendron radicans, is found mainly and widely in the Eastern part of North America. The leaves have a bit of resemblance with the almond plant leaves. The presence of urushiol in the plant causes rashes when being touched. The rashes cause tremendous skin irritation.

Comparison Table Between Poison Oak and Poison Ivy

Parameters of Comparison Poison Oak Poison Ivy
Scientific Names Toxicodendron diversilobum Toxicodendron radicans
Found in Western- North AmericaEastern- North America
Leaf Appearance resemblanceOak LeafAlmond Leaf
Other NamesPacific poison oak
Western Poison Oak
Eastern Poison Ivy
Colour of flowerSmall green-yellowSmall White

What is Poison Oak?

Poison Oak or as scientifically known as Toxicodendron diversilobum, is found widely in the areas of Western North America. Also known by the names Pacific Poison Oak or Western Poison Oak has leaves that have a great resemblance with the Oaktree leaves.

The plant bears green-yellow flowers and secretes an enzyme that is extremely harmful to the human skin. Though birds and other small animals eat the seeds and fruits of this plant, the plant causes tremendous itching, pain, and even blisters.

These plants were used by the Californian Native Americans to make objects like baskets with stems of the plant. Even the dried roots were used to make the antidote for the rashes caused and even aid in curing ringworms. The plant is also used and applied when rattlesnake bites, and it has proven to be effective. It also helps in curing dysentery. All these can be done only if the whole process is done with extreme care and proper supervision.

Moreover, if one gets rashes after getting into direct contact with the plant enzymes, then it is advisable that he or she must consult a doctor and apply calamine lotion or cream. The person should also take small lukewarm baths to wash the enzyme from the skin.

What is Poison Ivy?

Poison Ivy, whose scientific name is Toxicodendron radicans, is widely and primarily found in Eastern- North America. The plant is also known by the name Eastern Poison Ivy, and the plants’ leaves have a great resemblance with that of almond leaves.

It is mainly a shrub that grows up to 1.2 m, and it secretes harmful enzymes like urushiol. It is at times considered an unwanted weed. The plant sometimes grows like a vine too and can grow up to 10 to 25 cm.

The flowers of this plant are mostly white and are small in size. They blossom only in the months between May and July. During the months of August to November, the plant bears small berry-like fruits, and they are one of the main sources of food for small animals, insects, and birds of that area.

The effect of this plant on humans is not so pleasant. The effect of the enzyme stays for about twelve to fifteen days. One is advised to take consultation from a doctor immediately. According to one report, approximately thirty-five thousand people get affected by this plant in North America annually.

One can also rub that affected area with running ice-cold water or run cotton soaked in alcohol to reduce the effect of the enzyme and hence reduce pain.

Main Differences Between Poison Oak and Poison Ivy 

  1. The scientific name of Poison Oak is Toxicodendron diversilobum, whereas the scientific name of Poison Ivy is Toxicodendron radicans.
  2. The first one is found in Western- North America, whereas the latter one is found in Eastern- North America.
  3. The leaves of the Poison Oak as a close resemblance with the Oak leaves, whereas the Poison Ivy leaves are similar to that of the almond leaves.
  4. The other well-known names of Poison Oaks are Western Poison oaks and Pacific Poison Oaks. Whereas Poison Ivy is also known by the name of Eastern Poison Ivy.
  5. The flowers of Poison Oak are of green-yellow color. Whereas in the case of Poison Ivy is of white color.


Both Poison Oak and Poison Ivy cause tremendous skin irritation, pain, and even blisters. This mainly happens when the skin comes in contact with the harmful enzymes secreted by the plants. To cure the area, one needs to apply calamine lotion or cream over the skin affected. But one must take advice from a doctor as well and take small baths in lukewarm water to cure faster.

One can also use running cold water immediately after the contact happens or even clean that affected area with cotton soaked in alcohol. This will help in cleaning the area and wash out the enzymes. Though these plants are harmful to humans when they come directly in contact, they actually have numerous medicinal usages. If they are handled and processed properly, they can help in producing numerous medicines which can help to cure a plethora of diseases starting from ringworms to rattlesnake bites.

Moreover, these plants are one of the main sources of food for small animals and birds during the winter months.


  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0190962295902376
  2. https://pennstate.pure.elsevier.com/en/publications/poison-ivy-and-poison-oak-allergic-contact-dermatitis
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