Poison Ivy Identification – Leaflets Three, Let It Be!

Leaflets Three, Let It Be It’s lurking in your yard… It’s hidden at the park… it’s dun dun DUUUUUUN… POISON IVY! This pesky plant to humans used to make me fearful and uneasy, mostly because I had absolutely no clue what it looked like, and like most fears– The unknown is scary. That is until I read Leaflets Three, Let It Be!: The Story of Poison Ivy (public library/local bookstore) by Anita Sanchez, illustrated by Robin Brickman, a fantastic picture book about the life cycle of poison ivy, how to identify it, and the many important functions this plant serves in the animal kingdom. To me, Leaflets Three, Let It Be! is like a benevolent retelling of a misunderstood villain. It’s the backstory of how poison ivy feeds a large variety of animals throughout every season and provides shelter and shade for reptiles, birds, and insects.

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the story of poison ivy

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The story incorporates simple identification rhymes such as: “Hairy vine – A warning sign!”, “Berries white, take flight!” and the famous “Leaflets three, let it be!”, but also offers gentle text depicting the good natured side of this vilified plant and how many animals rely on it. Author Anita Sanchez continually notes to look closely, there’s more there if you stop for a moment to observe. Like most things in nature, they can be easily overlooked unless you take time to look down at the ground, or up in a tree, or right in front of your nose to notice the wonders that live in your very own backyard.

And I can’t not mention the illustrations in this book… Just look at the texture in these pictures by Robin Brickman! The three dimensional effect in each mix-media collage of cut-paper and paint brings the book to life (sans allergic reaction!). This book is an excellent resource for a greater understanding about poison ivy, the season, and how one plant, even an unpopular plant, in our world can be essential in the animal world.

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Poison Ivy Identification

As the author points out in Leaflets Three, Let It Be!, once you learn how to spot poison ivy you will quickly become accustomed to identifying it wherever you go. At the end of the book is a guide about the plant, why it causes a rash when humans touch it, and how to identify it. Below are a couple images of poison ivy I’ve taken this summer, one on a walk in the neighborhood and one on a hike outside of town. The first image was labeled in the front yard of a residence, which I thought that was such a great idea! Instead of getting rid of the plant, they used it as an opportunity to educate passersby.

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Poison ivy has many appearances, so I’m still learning about many of the varieties where I live. In this learning, I’m working on educating my own kids to be cautious as well. Now when I come across a vine, I don’t look at it in terror– I appreciate it’s place in the world while keeping a safe distance.


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