My yard is home to poison ivy, Virginia creeper and “bush killer,” three vines that are often confused with one another.

LSU horticulturist Dan Gill offers the saying, “Leaves of three, let it be,” in the initial identification of poison ivy.

“Poison ivy has a characteristic compound leaf consisting of three leaflets,” Gill said. “The leaves are 2 to 4 inches long and dull or glossy green with pointed tips. The middle leaf is generally larger than the two laterals. The margins of the leaflets are variable, appearing irregularly toothed, lobed or smooth. The leaves are arranged alternately on the stems. Young foliage is often shiny or oily looking with a reddish tint.”

Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) is nonpoisonous. It has FIVE, not three, leaflets radiating from one point of attachment.

Virginia creeper, unlike look-alike “bush killer,” is used as an ornamental in some parts of the country. “Bush killer,” as its name implies, will cover a bush such as an azalea, gradually depriving the bush of light and killing it.

Go to for recommended treatments of poison ivy and “bush killer.”