Poison Ivy

Poison-ivy (Toxicodendron radicans)

My plans for this week’s article flew out the door while I was weeding 
last week. It was WHAT I was weeding that actually changed the schedule. I 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  welts 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 doctor. 

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 your 
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 can check out this page  at the Cornell University site:  <http://www.abc.cornell.edu/cgi-bin/db2www/plants.d2w/report1>. 
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 get 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 should wear 
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.


Beverly is one of our Contributing Master Gardeners.
Click HERE to become a Contributing Associate.


Be sure to read our Disclaimer


If you enjoyed this page, book-mark it,
tell your gardening friends, and let us know with a friendly...