We spend a lot of the summer outdoors, hiking, camping, gardening etc. But quiet time in the garden or a nature walk can quickly turn into an itchy adventure if you don’t watch your step. Poison Ivy grows mostly in non-cultivated areas, along stream banks, roadways, and woodlands. It can also make its way to your ornamental shrub or perennial borders. has the knowledge and experience to identify and remove the unwanted plant if it creeps too close to your house/yard. Knowing how to identify and control Poison Ivy are the best defenses against accidental contact. The fact sheet on Poison Ivy below has some great detailed information.
The best way to identify poison ivy (Rhus radicans) is by its characteristic compound leaf consisting of three leaflets. The leaflets are two to four inches long, dull or glossy green with pointed tips. The middle leaflet is generally larger than the two laterals. The margins of the leaflets are variable, appearing irregularly toothed, lobed, or smooth. The leaves are positioned alternately on the stems. In contrast, Virginia Creeper, a non-poisonous vine often mistaken for poison ivy, has five leaflets radiating from one point of attachment.
Poison ivy can be found in one of three forms; as an erect woody shrub, a trailing shrub running along the ground, or a woody vine. The vine is usually seen growing on trees or other objects for support. It has aerial roots along the stem that give it the appearance of a “fuzzy rope.”
There are three methods that can be effective in eradicating poison ivy in ornamental beds. They include hand pulling or grubbing; severing the vine and then treating the regrowth with an herbicide; or applying an herbicide to individual leaflets.
Things to Know
The blistering rash caused by poison ivy is the direct result of contact with the oily toxicant, known as “urushiol.” Urushiol is found in resin ducts within the plant’s phloem. These ducts are found throughout the plant, including the roots, stems, bark, leaflets and certain flower parts. The plant has to be crushed, broken, or in some way injured to release the resin. The injury may be something as little as an insect chewing on the plant.
Once urushiol is released, it can find its way to your skin by direct contact with the plant and then spread by touching other parts of the body. Because the sticky, oily substance is easily transmitted, there are indirect ways to contact it, for instance, from the fur of the family pet, garden tools, garden gloves, clothing, golf balls or other objects that have come in contact with an injured plant. Contrary to popular belief, the rash from poison ivy cannot be transmitted from touching the oozing blisters.
If you know you have contacted poison ivy, wash the area as soon as possible with soap and cool water. Warm water may cause the resin to penetrate the skin faster. Because urushiol can penetrate in a matter of minutes, you may still get a rash, but at least you have contained the infected area. A visible reaction, redness and swelling may be apparent within 12 to 24 hours. Contact your family physician or pharmacist for recommendations for effective non-prescription medication.
One additional caution is that people can contract a rash by exposure to smoke of burning poison ivy; be careful not to burn wood with the poison ivy vine attached to it. Take extreme caution to avoid inhaling smoke or contact of smoke with skin and clothing.
Welyczkowsky, Cindy, and Jane C. Martin. “Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet.”Ohioline.osu.edu/. Ohio State University Extension, 2001. Web.
Mark Schlossberg is the President of ProLawnPlus in Baltimore, MD. He graduated from the University of Maryland in 1977 with a B.S. in agronomy. He is the President of the Maryland Association of Green Industries, and past president of the Maryland Turfgrass Council.