Box Elder vs. Poison Ivy – Similiarities and Differences!

Browse this article on Box Elder vs. Poison Ivy and learn the key similarities and differences between these two!

Are you struggling to tell apart Boxelder from Poison Ivy in your garden or local park? Don’t worry and check out this guide on Box Elder vs. Poison Ivy that covers the similarities and differences between these two specimens.

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What is Box Elder?

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Box elder or Acer negundo is a deciduous tree of the Sapindaceae family. This tree is native to Central and North America. Box elder features bright green, pinnately compound, 3-5 serrated leaflets, and showy blooms in spring. It also offers brownish-gray bark and greenish-yellow fruits known as Samara.

What is Poison Ivy?


Poison Ivy, scientifically known as Toxicodendron radicans, is a woody vine or shrub found in North and Central America. This plant boasts yellowish-green blooms and pinnately compound foliage with three leaflets. It’s infamous for causing long-lasting skin irritation in humans due to the allergic substance named urushiol.

Box Elder vs. Poison Ivy – Key Differences

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1. Plant Type

Box elder, scientifically known as Acer negundo, is a deciduous tree that can reach heights of 30-50 feet. On the other hand, poison ivy is a woody vine or shrub with 1-3 feet height and width.

2. Leaves

Box elder’s foliage is compound and usually consists of three to five leaflets. Whereas, the compound leaves of poison ivy only have three leaflets.

3. Leaf Arrangement

The green leaves of the box elder plant are arranged opposite each other along the stem. Poison Ivy, on the other hand, features an alternate leaf arrangement along its stem.

4. Leaf Shape

The serrated edges of box elder leaves make them easily distinguishable. Whereas, poison ivy’s foliage is lobed, with irregular edges.

5. Fruits

Boxelder produces greenish-yellow to brown samaras (a type of fruit) in September or October. On the other hand, the fruits of poison ivy are small, whitish berries.

6. Allergenic Properties

Poison ivy contains urushiol, a resinous compound that causes skin irritation and allergic reactions. Unlike poison ivy, boxelder does not possess urushiol or known allergenic properties.

7. Bark

The bark of Boxelder is brownish-gray and has narrow ridges. In contrast, poison ivy has smooth, dark-gray bark.

8. Habitat

Boxelder is adaptable and thus can be found in a wide range of habitats, including urban areas, along streams, and woodlands. Poison ivy thrives in woody and shaded areas.

Box Elder vs. Poison Ivy- Similarities


1. Native Region

Both Boxelder and Poison Ivy plants are common in various regions of North and Central America.

2. Compound Leaves

Despite their differing leaflet numbers and shapes, both plants have compound leaves. Boxelder’s foliage features 3-5 leaflets arranged in a pinnately compound pattern, while Poison Ivy has compound leaves with three leaflets.


A detailed understanding of the various differences and occasional similarities between Box Elder and Poison Ivy is essential for anyone spending time outdoors. While Boxelder is a harmless tree with unique features, poison ivy poses a potential health risk due to its urushiol content. That’s why the differences and similarities between these two specimens are a must to avoid potential health hazards.

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