Sunday, June 16, 2013

Poison Ivy: Oriental Bittersweet's Partner in Crime

It's mid-June in Glastonbury and poison ivy is approaching its full glory. While poison ivy is a native plant therefore not invasive, it can sure be a nuisance. If you look for infestations of oriental bittersweet there is an excellent chance of finding poison ivy standing guard, complicating the process of cutting, treating, or removing the oriental bittersweet.

The most important rule of poison ivy is know what it looks like. Everybody has heard the poison ivy rhymes: Leaves of three, let them be; hairy vine, no friend of mine; and berries white, run in fright. This post will provide a few pictures to put with the rhymes.

The second rule is do your homework. There are abundant resources that will tell you about precautions to take such as barrier creams, clothing to wear, how to work around poison ivy, risks and consequences, how to wash up afterward, washing clothing that has been in contact with poison ivy, how to avoid getting poison ivy from pets that have been into it, what to do when you do get poison ivy, and so on. You have to know what you're doing otherwise the consequences can be very unpleasant at best and put you in the hospital at worst. If you work outside and don't have a product like Tecnu (poison ivy wash) buy it now.

A few helpful links are provided on the Resources page of this blog. Here's a tip most experts don't tell you: You can put on your protective gloves and clothing and follow all the rules. Things will be great until you forget you've been touching poison ivy and smack that mosquito on your face or scratch your nose with your gloved hand. You might as well do it with a poison ivy leaf because the poison ivy oils (urushiol) on your gloves will transfer to your skin. So don't do that! Same with shoe laces. If you tramp around in poison ivy then remove your gloves to untie your boot laces, those laces have probably been rubbing against poison ivy. Everybody's happy until somebody starts itching!

Finally, none of the above matters if you don't look first. Seeing poison ivy after you've been standing in it is a very bad feeling, especially if you didn't follow the second rule. Always be on the lookout for poison ivy and spot it before you're in it.

The following pictures cover poison ivy vine and leaf development from April thru June:

Above: New vine growth in early April. Leaves usually begin reddish then turn green.
Above: More new growth, April.

Above: Same new growth in May, turning green.
Above: New growth in April, attaching to granite ledge.

 Above: Same new growth in May.
Above: Poison ivy vine pulled away from tree trunk. Note hairy tendrils on vine.
Above: Close-up of tendrils on poison ivy vine.
All parts of a poison ivy plant can release urushiol, including the vine and root system.
Above: Classic poison ivy leaf pattern, with three leaflets (early June).
The stem on the center leaflet is the longest of the three.
Color will change to oranges and reds in the fall.
 Above: Closer view of what to look for. Three leaves attaching to stem at the same point. Note the side leaflets which are distinctly shaped ("side leaflets like mittens, will itch like the dickens"). The distinct mitten shape may not be as pronounced as the plant above so don't assume a symmetrical side leaflet means it's not poison ivy (see some of the leaflets in photo below).
Above: Growing as a vine along with oriental bittersweet.
You don't want to brush up against this so look around you as well as at the ground!
 Above: Growing as a ground cover in shady area. Note slightly darker leaves.
Don't you wish your whole garden could look this healthy??
June 17: Here come the berries. They aren't white yet but you should still "run in fright."
Just don't fall into a poison ivy patch when you do.