One of the best-known villains in the Batman mythology, Poison Ivy has made surprisingly few live-action appearances, although she’s heavily featured in the animated DC universe. She’s only appeared in a single live-action movie – the appalling Batman and Robin, where Uma Thurman brought Pamela Isley to life as one of the villains George Clooney and his bat-nipples had to defeat. More recently, Ivy has appeared in Fox’s Gotham, but she's far from the vampy villainess that we know and love. Instead, Ivy Pepper (Clare Foley) is a young girl living on the streets, friends with Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova) and thus far without any true powers.
Despite her limited screentime, Poison Ivy remains a hugely popular comic book figure, known for her green skin, tight costumes, plant-based poisons and skill with toxins. A true comic femme fatale, she often uses seduction to get what she wants, as well as biological weaponry. However, Poison Ivy actually has a whole host of powers, many of which aren’t common knowledge – how many of these did you know about?
Although Poison Ivy has a range of superpowers that she uses in her eco-terrorist plots, she’s far from invulnerable, and some of her weaknesses are just as fascinating as her abilities. One of Ivy’s biggest weaknesses is her tenuous grasp on sanity; like her girlfriend, Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy was driven insane when she became a supervillain, and although she is a genius, she is a mad one.
Beyond her mental instability, Poison Ivy also has a specific physical weakness: sunlight. More specifically, a lack of sunlight, which would progressively weaken her and her powers (and presumably eventually kill her). Because she is a human-plant hybrid, she absorbs and converts sunlight, and so requires it as well as CO2 (and water, we would assume) to survive. It would take an incredibly long period of time to actually harm her by denying her sunlight, but significant periods of time without it will weaken her abilities.
14 Breathing CO2
Although all variations of Poison Ivy are part-plant, various versions have made the character more or less plant-based. In some comics, Ivy is primarily human, while in others, she is more plant than person. When the latter is true, Ivy gains the ability to breathe CO2, rather than oxygen, just like a plant.
This can be an advantage – a lack of oxygen won’t kill her or knock her out, and she can still breathe the air like any other human. However, she still requires CO2 to survive, and wouldn’t be able to live in an environment without it, making this is a power that really only comes in handy if an enemy specifically draws the oxygen out of the room. It could also be useful for surviving a fire, although Ivy would still obviously be damaged by the flames themselves. Still, this is an interesting (and little used) superpower of Ivy’s.
13 Super Durability
It’s easy to forget about some of the more general superpowers granted to Ivy when she was transformed, but she did also gain a few gifts that are not specific to her within the DC Universe. One of these is an enhanced durability, which allows her to resist injury to a greater extent than a normal human. It hasn’t been explicitly explained how this is an extension of her other plant powers, but it does make her able to physically fight with less chance of incurring significant harm and a faster healing time than most.
Her healing time may be related to her ability to alter her own physiology (as seen when she changes her skin color and the secretions that she creates on her skin), as she could be able to force injuries to heal faster than usual. However, she’s also usually protected by the plants that she animates as weapons, so she actually gets in direct hand-to-hand fights far less than many other villains – she prefers hand-to-plant fighting.
12 Super Strength
Another less plant-centric power that Poison Ivy has is her increased strength – another side-effect of the plant toxins injected into her. Although she doesn’t have the same kind of raw strength of, say, Superman, she is significantly stronger than a human woman of her same size and build. Poison Ivy has been described as around three times as strong as an athlete of the same size as her.
It’s not enough to lift trains with a single hand, but it is enough to make her a formidable opponent, even without her animated plants to help her. Ivy’s strength is augmented by her martial arts skills, as she is trained in hand to hand combat (to a limited degree). This is a skill that has been increased by her time living with Catwoman and Harley Quinn, two of the Batman mythology’s best female hand-to-hand fighters. Together, this means that although Ivy prefers to use her plants in battle, she is more than capable of doing her own fighting, too.
11 Super Agility
The third of the more general enhancements to Ivy’s body that came from the poison being injected into her is increased agility. This has been shown many times, as she climbs and swings with remarkable ease, even without the help of her various animated plants and vines. Part of this is training, and part of it is a nod to the plant that gives her her name, as the ivy plant is known as a climber.
Her agility is usually seen in climbing rather than more gymnastic Catwoman-esque feats, but it’s also an advantage on the rare occasions that she decides to fight without the use of animated plants. Like her super-strength and super-durability, Poison Ivy’s super-agility is only moderately enhanced compared to a ‘normal’ human, and is even slightly less than that of a super-trained human (like Catwoman, for example). This skill generally manifests as the ability to climb without effort.
10 Genius-Level Intellect
Like her on-again/off-again girlfriend, Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy was an incredibly intelligent and devoted professional before poor relationship choices turned her into a supervillain. In Ivy’s case, she was Pamela Isley, a brilliant student of advanced botanical biochemistry. She actually possesses a genius-level intellect, and although her mind has been slightly warped so that her insanity wars with her intellect, she is still an incredibly smart character.
Her genius is obviously focused primarily on the plant world, as it was before she became Poison Ivy. Her transformation simply enhanced her obsession, rather than creating it. Despite her status as a villain, she may well be the world’s best authority on biochemistry, with her quasi-mystical connection to plants only serving to give her even greater insight into botany and biochemistry. Ivy uses this primarily to create toxins and anti-toxins to use as biological weapons, but also uses her incredible brain as a strategist, making her an even more formidable opponent.
9 Love Potion Secretions
This is actually one of her relatively well-known powers, but we simply couldn’t make a list for Poison Ivy without including it! Ivy’s origin story gave her plant-based powers, including the ability to create and secrete various pheromones and substances deriving from any plant. One of her most-used pheromone/chemical secretions acts as a love potion – or more accurately, a lust-potion. This chemical drives anyone who comes in contact with it wild with desire for Poison Ivy, and she has used it to seduce those in her way, as well as to control henchmen and helpers.
At one point, Ivy used this power to convince Clayface that they were in love so that he would go on a rampage for her. Although these pheromones convince people that they are in “love”, they are as much hypnotic as they are anything, and Ivy uses them to devastating effect. Although she can control anyone who comes in contact with these secretions, her favorite way to administer them is with a kiss. Because she's a romantic at heart?
8 Truth Serum Secretions
Like her love potions, one of Ivy’s other most useful chemical secretions is one that she created that acts as a truth serum. This one allows her to knock out her victim, before setting their mind into a state that allows her to ask them any question and get an honest answer.
An incredibly useful tool for information gathering, Ivy has used this even on her allies. In Gotham City Sirens, Ivy uses a puff of this truth serum on Catwoman in order to try and discover the ultimate secret of who Batman really is. Luckily, so many people have put on the Batsuit over the years that Catwoman is able to answer truthfully… but not too helpfully. Like her other toxins and secretions, Ivy could administer this almost any way she chooses – including a kiss. However, in this particular instance, she releases the drug as a puff of spores from her hands.
7 Toxin Immunity
Poison Ivy gained her powers as a shy-but-brilliant botany student when her college professor injected her with an experimental dose of plant-based poison. Rather than killing her, this poison changed her anatomy, making her as much a plant as she was a human. As a result of this, and her ability to create a whole range of her own toxins and anti-toxins within her body, Ivy is essentially immune to poisoning.
Although there could potentially be some poison out there that would affect her, it would have to not only be derived from something other than a plant, but would also have to lack a plant-based anti-toxin. This immunity even allows Ivy to remain unaffected to the effects of Joker venom, as it simply doesn’t compare to the toxic cocktail of her body. Ivy has also been able to bottle this for others to use, allowing her to grant Harley Quinn immunity from the Joker’s venom as well.
6 Living Vine Costume
Poison Ivy’s costume has gone through several changes over the years, although it is almost always some variant of a green leotard. In some versions, she wears a very plain costume, in others, it is covered in leaves and vines, and in some, it's bordering on normal (if very green) streetwear.
More recently, Ivy’s costume has incorporated living vines, which she uses as extra prehensile limbs when fighting. She can use these to bind and hold off her opponents, something that she can also do with nearby plant life. Her new costume, however, allows her to do this even when there is no other plant life nearby (for example, even in a concrete bunker, Ivy would be able to use this power). She can also use them as shields to defend herself, to knock enemies aside or even to grab hold of things. However, these vines are limited, meaning that she cannot release an unlimited number from her costume, and they can only reach out so far.
5 Accelerated Plant Growth
One of Ivy’s primary powers is the ability to control plants, making her a truly deadly adversary in nature, where she can use the nearby plants as living weapons under her command. However, she doesn’t need to restrict herself to using those plants that are already large enough to be useful. An extension of her ability allows her to speed up the growth of any plant while controlling its movements.
This is particularly useful in battle, when she can force vines to grow until they reach whatever (or whomever) she needs them to, but she has used this power in several other ways. In Arkham Asylum: Living Hell, Poison Ivy was a prisoner in Arkham and used her ability to accelerate plant growth to use roots as tunnel supports as she tunneled out of the facility. She can also use this power to grow ladders to climb, to create hiding places and shelter, and a myriad other ways.
4 Mystical Plant Connection
Poison Ivy’s connection to the plant life of the planet is central to her character, but what is it that actually connects her to them in this way? We know that Ivy can communicate with plants, controlling them, animating them, and growing them out to fit her needs. Ivy is also part-plant herself, and refers to herself as a ‘hybrid’. Her connection is never fully explained, but it is strongly suggested that at this point, there is something quasi-mystical about this connection.
It was Swamp Thing who revealed that Poison Ivy is connected to The Green, the dimension where all plants and plant elementals are connected. Occasionally referred to as the May Queen, Ivy’s connection to plants is a spiritual and supernatural one, rather than a purely physical one. At various points, she has considered herself a mother to all the plants of the world, as well as an eco-terrorist working on their behalf.
3 Skin Pigment Manipulation
As a human, Pamela Isley was a white woman with red hair – but the toxins injected into her eventually made her skin turn bright green. Throughout her comic history, she has usually appeared as green-skinned (her hair remained red, however), but at times, Poison Ivy looked more like an average redhead in a green costume. While some of this may be down to the artists drawing her, it has also been confirmed as a physical power that Ivy has – the ability to manipulate her skin tone.
This took her many years of training and practice, but she is now able to switch between her natural green skin and a less remarkable color – vital for being able to integrate into the general public, whether for spying or just to attempt to lead some semblance of a normal life. Various versions of the character have been shown as able or unable to use this power, with other versions showing Ivy as a pale-skinned women with twining vine-like designs on her skin (that look something like tattoos).
2 Hearing And Speaking Through Plants
Poison Ivy’s unique affinity with plants extends through every plant in the world, and allows her to communicate both with and through them. She can hear the plants themselves, which can have a negative effect when her green babies are harmed. When plants are destroyed (especially a large area at one time), Ivy can literally hear them screaming and dying. However, she can also turn this hearing into an extension of her own, and tune in to any specific plant to allow her to hear through it.
It’s a power that is incredibly useful for spying on her enemies, as she can connect to a living plant near them, and “hear” their plans. An extension of this ability allows Ivy to communicate with others through her plants – taking control of them and even forming the surface of the plant (bark, vines, etc) into a semblance of a face, which she then talks through. This allows her to talk to anyone in the world, as long as they are near a living plant.
1 Plant Avatars
A combination of her ability to control plants, speak through them, and accelerate the growth of her little green pals, plant avatars seem like a logical extension of Ivy’s existing powers. She can use her gifts to grow and mutate plants into humanoid-shaped monsters of any size, under her control and able to hear for her and speak with her voice.
She has used this in the past to create enormous plant-monsters to battle for her, and can create and control multiple avatars at once in order to intimidate or take down multiple foes and unbeatable odds. These plant avatars can be created where she physically is, or from any distance, as long as Ivy has access to some form of plant life that she can mutate into a plant-monster. She hasn’t been shown to do this in multiple locations at once, however, suggesting that she needs to focus her attention on the plant avatar to control it, and therefore wouldn’t be able to create a full army of these avatars (yet).
Which of these abilities would you like to see on Gotham? Let us know in the comments.