My plans for this week’s article flew out the door while I
last week. It was WHAT I was weeding that actually changed the
hadn’t even seen it. I thought I had checked carefully. Nowhere
did I see the three shiny leaves associated with poison-ivy. It
had been there; at least, it had been there at one time.
I began to see little red spots on my forearms and itched
only about as much as a mosquito bite. That is what I thought they were. Then little
developed which soon began to look like water-filled blisters.
Now the sensation of itch began in earnest. Finally after 8 days
of unbearable itch, and, by now – pain, I called my
He gave me some medication to help my body cope with the itching,
suggested a course of treatment for the damaged skin, and also told me that
there are liquids available at pharmacies now that can aid in prevention
if worn on the skin before contact with the poison oils. He also gave me
some great information about poison-ivy that came from his own experience
with the nasty weed.
According to the doctor, even though I had not seen the
plant (or at least had not recognized it) it could still have been there
since the oil can remain on tree trunks, rocks, buildings, garden tools,
etc. for more than a year. In fact, you can get a reaction from contact
with clothing that has brushed by poison-ivy or after petting a dog or
cat that has come in contact with the oil. It is not advised to burn
poison-ivy since the oils can be carried in the smoke and transferred
that way also. It’s a messy business, this poison-ivy!
First of all, if you can live peacefully with poison-ivy on
property consider doing so. Keep it in check so that it doesn’t overrun
your property and become a nuisance. Poison-ivy is actually a boon for
the wildlife in your area. Deer forage on the leaves and birds eat the
berries. Small animals hide in its thick matted vegetation. So, believe
it or not, there are good points to poison-ivy.
Let’s take a good look at it. It’s very important to recognize
poison-ivy since avoiding it is your first line of defense. “Leaves of
three – let it be.” Remember that it will always have a cluster of three
leaves connected at the bottom of each leaf. You can find some great
photos of the poison-ivy plant at this site:
For a great look at poison-ivy in its fall colors you
check out this page at the Cornell University site:
If you don’t have a computer there are many great books with detailed photos
of the plant or you can visit your extension office for help.
Now that we know what poison-ivy looks like, how can we
rid of it from our yards and gardens? Be careful and be
persistent. The easiest (and I use the term loosely) and most
effective way to eradicate poison-ivy is to use a systemic
herbicide. Do the spraying in late summer or early autumn. The
plant is storing energy for winter use in the roots so it’s
a good time to get the herbicide down deep into the root system. It may be necessary to spray several times in one season.
The plant can also be cut, but the person doing the cutting
protective clothing, gloves, and a facemask. This may seem a little
drastic but the oils from the plant as it is cut can spurt, spray, and
sputter with the best of them. For this reason it is often suggested to
do the removal when the plant is dormant in the winter. If you are
chopping the plants, one of the best ways to dispose of the debris is to
bury it...deep! It’s difficult to get the complete plant because it can
spread over 15 feet from its original root system.
Each time you work in an area where poison-ivy grows it is best to wash
your garments, boots, gloves, goggles, etc. to get rid of any lingering
oils. Soap and water do a great job of cleaning for this purpose.
Remember that if you do get poison-ivy on your skin, be sure to wash
with soap and cool water thoroughly and as soon after contact as
possible since the oil is absorbed into the skin very quickly. Hot water
seems to spread it more.
More information about poison-ivy can be obtained through
the following website: <http://npspests.cas.psu.edu/articles/IvySheet.htm>
or by visiting your local County Extension office.