Poison ivy is one of the most common weeds in residential landscapes, especially in the eastern and southern US. A native plant, it is fast growing and long-lived. It grows wild in woods and along roadsides and insinuates itself into yards. Sometimes it resembles a vine, sometimes a groundcover, sometimes a shrub. Often difficult to distinguish from desirable vines such as Virginia creeper, this dangerous nuisance is also tough to eradicate.
Poison ivy exudes a non-volatile oil which is a skin irritant, causing a rash in susceptible people. All parts of the plant--leaves, stems, berries--are virulent throughout the year, though less so during dormancy in the winter. Even smoke from burning poison ivy plants is hazardous. Because skin inflammation can be particularly severe with pets and small children, make every effort to eradicate the noxious plant on your property.
Summary of How to Deal With Poison Ivy
I met a woman last week with both wrists in bandages. She explained she had been trying to get rid of some poison ivy that had climbed a tree in her yard. She did everything right – long sleeves, long pants, heavy shoes, heavy gloves, and eye glasses. Unfortunately she didn’t consider the fact that she would be reaching up in the air to cut the vines and she exposed her bare wrists which just touched the woody vine. Even just touching the wood can give you a rash. She needed gloves with gauntlets that are used for pruning rose bushes to protect those wrists.
Poison ivy is bad stuff. It can be really hard to identify. Sometimes it resembles a vine, sometimes a groundcover, sometimes a shrub. It is often difficult to distinguish from desirable vines such as Virginia creeper, this dangerous nuisance is also tough to eradicate.
Poison ivy foliage is three shiny leaflets from 2 to 4 inches long at the end of 10 inch stems which are attached to the main vine. To confuse us all, their edges may be toothed, smooth or even lobed. They unfold red or purplish in spring, then usually turn a shiny dark yellow-green for the summer. In the fall they show a duller red-orange. By early October the leaves of this deciduous plant fall, exposing its woody stems.
The toxin in poison ivy that causes contact dermatitis is an oily substance called urushiol, found in all of the parts of the plant--leaves, stems, berries. This is why poison ivy is a threat year-round, not just when it is in leaf. It's possible to pick up the toxins from garden tools, clothing, pets--anything that has been in contact with the plant.
Once it touches the skin, the urushiol begins to penetrate in a matter of minutes. In those sensitive to the chemical, reaction will appear in the form of a rash (sometimes resembling insect bites) within 12 to 48 hours.
Immediately following a close encounter with poison ivy, wash all exposed skin areas with cold running water; preferably within 5 minutes of contact. Take cool showers to relieve itching.
If you are routinely exposed to possible poison ivy contact you should consider buying IvyComplete. It contains three bottles – IvyBlock to prevent a rash, MyCleanse to remove oil immediately after contact, and MySooth to relieve itching if you didn’t catch the oil soon enough (www.ivyblock.com). To make matters worse, we should avoid caffeine and alcohol which aggravate itching.
To remove poison ivy, I kill it first with two applications of RoundUp applied one week apart spraying the whole plant that is accessible. Then I cut the plant down, cut it into pieces that can be put in a plastic bag, and then I put it out for the trash. I thoroughly wash the pruners and my gloves after the job is over.