Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Three-Parted Leaves

I walked into a tiny open area dominated by mosses and noticed a small Poison Ivy plant. Beside the Poison Ivy was another three leaved plant and the old saying “Leaves of three, leave it be” jumped to mind. I thought about how sad it would be for people to miss knowing so many plants just because they couldn’t tell Poison Ivy from all the rest of the triple leafers. Within that little twelve foot diameter clearing, I photographed all the various three parted leaves I could find.

Here’s that Poison Ivy, on the left in the picture, with a young Hop Tree, Ptelea trifoliata. Anyone in this clearing who feared leaves of three should be getting nervous by now.

Certainly no one is going to fear the tiny clovers such as this Black Medic, Medicago lupulina. I’m not afraid of it, but since it’s a non-native, I’m not really happy to see it producing so much seed.

The Black Medic flower is fairly easy to recognize. The small blooms appear as tiny spots of yellow hovering near the ground.

The Trailing Bush Clover, Lespedeza procumbens, poses no threat. This plant looks like it tried to stand, but collapsed in exhaustion.

Another sprawling type plant is the Prostrate Tick Trefoil, Desmodium rotundifolium. The leaflets can measure a couple of inches across and always look too large to me. I find it most often I partly shaded areas where you would expect leaves to be larger in order to capture adequate sunlight.

The Large-Bracted Tick Trefoil, Desmodium cuspidatum, is a handsome specimen. Being a plant of the woodlands, it thrives in this partial shade and will be blooming later this summer.

Hog Peanut, Amphicarpaea bracteata, is a viney plant that is much more common at Blue Jay Barrens than is Poison Ivy. A hiker fearing three leaflets would not get very far hiking around here.

So many three parted leaves in such a small area. It would be a shame to miss a treat of Wild Strawberries just because they waved triple leaflets in your direction. It’s not hard to learn to recognize the plants you should avoid. Then you’re free to get to know all the other plants you’ll find in your travels.


  1. Thanks for this cool post on three leafed plants. great post.
    you sure do have some interesting bugs, flowers etc. out at Blue Jay Barrens.

  2. Hi Steve.... I sure am very familar with the Posion Ivy .....after having two pretty bad cases of it and mild rashes without hardly getting near it I became quite familar with it!! ; }
    The Large Bracted Tick Trefoil I have growing here !!!
    Very interesting your three leafed post....good info as usual!!!

  3. Clever post! Loved the focus and the info. ~karen

  4. Hi, Dawn. I have to admit to occasionally being overwhelmed by some of the neat things I find here.

    Hi, grammie g. Sorry to hear about your sensitivity to Poison Ivy. I never seem to get it when the leaves are on. Most of the time, I’ll get a reaction by touching broken stems or roots in the winter. One of the hazards of cutting brush.

    Thanks, Karen.