Identifying And Disposing Of Poison Ivy

Ivy Photos Courtesy
Ivy Photos Courtesy

Reporter: Shannon Samson

New Media Producer: Kerry Corum

If you run into a patch of poison ivy, the itching, redness and rash could be with you for up to a month.

Wesselman Woods definitely has its share of poison ivy, but there may be some in your backyard too. The noxious plant blossoms, then makes a white berry that birds and other wildlife eat and spread around in their droppings, creating more of the tell-tale "leaves of three."

Teaching Naturalist Lisa Hoffman explains, "There's one leaf that sticks straight out at the top and then two that go straight out to the sides. The two that are on the bottom, the easiest way for me to remember is, the bottom leaf tends to have what looks like a thumb notch, however you hold your hand, it looks like a notch that sticks out the bottom that would be the same as your hand."

The itching and misery caused by poison ivy occurs from six to 24 hours after oil from the plant gets on exposed skin. That gives you time to wash off at least some of the oil with soap and water. Remember to clean any tools you were using as well as clothing that might be contaminated.

It's all pretty straightforward until you take a look at one of the plants. The hairy-looking vine that you might see climbing a tree is also poison ivy. It still creates plants with leaves of three, but the branches are longer and look slightly different than the ones that grow out of the ground.

Hoffman says, "Especially in the fall too. You have to be aware too, that those are poison ivy leaves, because they turn a bright red. So a lot of kids go out and collecting leaves for fall school projects and end up picking poison ivy leaves."

Hoffman doesn't just teach kids the old saying, "leaves of three, let it be." she adds on "hairy rope, don't be a dope."

It's okay to cut down poison ivy as long as you're wearing gloves and other protective clothing. But the naturalist says don't even think about burning it. The fumes can actually spread poison ivy to your respiratory tract.