Bracken Fern
July 9, 2019
July 10, 2019

Poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) is a common North American plant that is well-known for creating an itchy rash upon contact with the skin. It’s a member of the sumac family (Anacardiaceae) that rarely grows at altitudes above 5,000 feet. The plants are found in Asia, Europe, and North America and are native to North America, growing in every state in the U.S. except Alaska. Michigan and Minnesota are two of the states that list poison ivy as a noxious weed. Poison ivy plants can also be found in the Bahamas and Bermuda.  Colonists coming to America first discovered it, and rumor has it that it was John Smith who gave poison ivy its name. In 1640, plants were taken back to England, however, it’s a bit unclear whether that mistake was intentional or merely accidental.

Treating exposure to poison ivy should be undertaken as soon as you break out or preferably within a couple of hours of exposure. Keeping the rash uncovered whenever possible, can aid in healing. Be sure to watch out for any appearance of a rash two or three days following possible exposure. Wash skin that may have come in contact with poison ivy (and/or oak or sumac), using a washcloth and any good soap (preferably grease-cutting like Dawn dish liquid), bearing down so you’re scraping the oil off of your skin. Then apply calamine lotion or cortisone cream to affected areas and wash all clothing that came in contact with the plants. 

Poison Ivy

There are several options for naturally killing poison ivy in your yard. The most effective methods are simply to digging it up and dispose of it or spraying it with a herbicide. It’s important to avoid touching any part of the poison ivy plant because they contain a seriously irritating oil called urushiol oil, which is a colorless (or slightly yellow in some cases) oil with the ability to stay on an object for many months. It’s also vital to note that you should never burn poison ivy because the oil from the leaves does burn, however, if you were to start breathing in those fumes, it can make breathing very painful, damaging your lungs or even killing you.

The most common poison ivy variety can grow right up the trunks of trees as well as anyplace that the ground is undisturbed. Unfortunately, it’s also an extraordinarily adaptable and persistent form of vegetation, which can easily affect anyone accidentally. However, it can also be easy to identify when armed with sufficient information about it, including: 

  • Its leaves grow in groups of three and are pointed at their tips.
  • The two leaflets on the sides are smaller than the middle leaf.
  • The center leaf usually has a small stem, however, the two side leaflets are growing directly from the poison ivy vine and have no stems.
  • The leaves are usually green in spring, turning reddish-orange in fall.
  • Leaves are generally a dark waxy green on top with lighter green undersides that are fuzzy.
  • It can grow as both a shrub and a vine.
  • It bears flowers with small white berry clusters in the spring, lasting through winter. The berries shouldn’t be consumed or even touched or for any reason. Although birds and deer eat the berries, they’re not safe for humans.
  • It may be called “poison ivy,” however, it’s capable of both growing upwards where it clings to surfaces just like ivy and can also grow as a single plant or even a bush.
  • When it grows in rocky places, it takes over all of the other vegetation that’s present.
  • When it grows near objects, like a fence or a tree, it twines itself around that object as it’s growing, creating a mass of vegetation that is very dense.