Saturday, June 18, 2011

Poison Ivy Patrol


This time of year brings something a little unpleasant in that no matter how careful I am, I manage to get poison ivy somewhere. I'll admit that I wasn't as careful as I could have been this spring though. I distinctly remember pulling weeds, getting into a nice rhythm, and just as I reached for that three-leaved one, it was like I was watching myself in slow motion. Even as I grabbed it - bare-handed (shame on me!) - I knew what it was, but couldn't stop myself.

I immediately went to the nearby swimming pool and washed my hands, rubbing them back and forth vigorously, and then went in the house to wash some more, this time with soap. I'm convinced this helped me avoid a nasty reaction, but I still had outbreaks on several fingers of both hands. I've got a small area on the inside of my left elbow and my left knee, too.

Poison Ivy growing in the sedum

In recent years, it seems that we've got more and more poison ivy seedlings that pop up throughout the summer. We both know well what it looks like, which helps when it comes to ridding our property of it. It has three notched leaves, a red stem when it's young, and nearly always is growing at the base of trees. I can count on finding it under the shagbark hickory.

Likely, the birds have eaten the berries from a different location, perhaps in a nearby woods or along the ditch banks, and then they excrete them as they rest and nest in our trees. The result is a new crop of poison ivy.


My method of removing the seedlings is this: I have a box of latex gloves just for unpleasant tasks. Pulling poison ivy certainly qualifies as one of those! I wear the gloves as I carefully pull the seedlings with my left hand, putting them then in my right as I walk around, trying to remember where I've seen the poison ivy during my gardening tasks.

Once I've gotten them all, I wad them up into a ball in my right hand, carefully pull that glove off inside out, with the seedlings inside, put that in my left hand, then also carefully pull off that glove inside out with the entire contents inside. I tie a knot in the top and toss it in the garbage.

Today, I found 13 seedlings. I wish I'd left that 14th one for today's poison ivy patrol.


Poison Ivy Facts
(from a previously published post)


  • The offending substance in poison ivy is urushiol and it's so potent that only ¼ ounce of it would be enough to infect every single person on earth.
  • Poison ivy only grows in the eastern United States, so you can get away from it by moving to California, where they have poison oak.
  • One to five years is the normal length of time for urushiol to stay active on any surface.
  • You cannot get poison ivy from another person unless they still have the urushiol on their skin. It also doesn't spread by opening the blisters. It's only spread by the oil from the plant itself.
  • 90% of the population is allergic to urushiol.



17 comments:

SuzOH said...

A very timely post. I found out what that odd weed in this one overgrown bed is--poison sumac. I'm going to have to be very careful once I'm ready to clean it up. I barely brushed against it and I'm paying for it!

Kylee said...

Oh Suz! How did you get so "lucky" to find that?? From what I understand, it's not very common and only grows in wetlands. But maybe that's where you found it! I'm so sorry you're dealing with it. None of these contact dermatitis things are fun, are they?

Anonymous said...

I will be breaking out the gloves! Thanks for the tip. I have seen the poison around the farm lately and do not want a repeat of last year!

Jennifer said...

Ugh, I hate poison ivy. Indeed a timely post...my parents are trying to get rid of it at their lake cabin and I worry so much about my kids playing out there and coming in contact. What a little bugger it is to get rid of!!

Gail said...

I am one of the 90%.

Had a bad case when I was pregnant and my daughter did not show any allergic reactions for thirty years!

Patsi said...

Boy oh boy...wish you posted this 2 weeks ago. Husband got infected while clearing a bed that was untouched for years. You showed jagged edged leaves but we found smooth edge ones. I'll have to look again. Thanks for the info.

jeannine said...

I can happily say that I have never gotten poison ivy in any of my 40 years. I remember my sister and mother having it several times when I was growing up, so I feel lucky! Still, I am very careful when I find it growing in the garden and use gloves to pull it up. I don't know why, but I've also been finding it more than usual this year.

Heather's Garden said...

I've never seen jagged edged leaves, ours are all smooth. I've found a lot of seedlings this year too. Like all the bugs/pests I've been encountering this spring I'm blaming it on the snowy winter! Little tip about the gloves though. If you carry a plastic bag and put the pulled plants directly into it, you'll have a clean glove to pull over the dirty one with. That's what I do. I am pretty sure I'm not allergic to poison ivy because I've never had it and I'm sure I've gone wading through it, but there's always a first time.

Kristin said...

What a nasty weed! So glad I have never seen it here.

Linda Q said...

I cannot believe I'm reading this post this morning! Yesterday I found a HUGE outcropping of poison ivy on our property. Ugh. I do not "get" it, but I don't want to take a chance that my kids are immune. My local extension said to get a goat! They eat the ivy with no problem. Humans are the only creature that is allergic! Can you believe that?!

Linda Q said...

I cannot believe how timely this is! Yes, there are different varieties of PI, different leaves. Who knew?! My local extension office says get a goat, they can eat the leaves with impunity! Did you know that humans are the only creatures who are allergic??!!

Kylee said...

Anonymous ~ Be careful and go after it! ;-)

Jennifer ~ Yes, it's pretty persistent!

Gail ~ My first outbreak was when I was 33!

Patsi ~ Yes, it can have smooth edged leaves, too, but when we find it here, it's always this jaggedy kind. Sneaky stuff, isn't it?

jeannine ~ Yes, it's good to be careful. Better safe than sorry!

Heather ~ Yes, they can be smooth. Ours always look jagged though.

Kristin ~ I hope you never encounter it!

Linda Q ~ Ugh is right! And no, I didn't know that humans were the only ones allergic to it! It's weird how there are so many things that animals can eat that we can't.

Chiot's Run said...

Thankfully I'm not allergic to it - which is good because it's everywhere at Chiot's Run. I can't even count the number of times I've been weeding along and noticed I'm squatting in a nice big patch of it and rubbing my arms through it - thank goodness I'm not allergic - although I suppose if I was I'd be more diligent about getting rid of it.

It's nice to see your not spraying it like most people do. I try to keep it away from main garden paths and any areas where visitors may come into contact with it. I usually dig it up as well. I find digging and pulling to be a very effective method of control. I have some I must get out and get to work on soon.

Glad your reaction wasn't too bad!

Alan Moore said...

Sounds horrible. Glad we don't have it here in North Yorkshire (UK). Not quite in the same league, but I've just landed in a nettle patch whilst gardening and it itches like hell. Padded clothing is the only answer!

Kylee said...

Chiot's Run ~ Lucky you! I've only had one really bad outbreak and that was the first time. I'm pretty careful though, since that ugly scene! I really do hate to use chemicals, though I'd resort to that for poison ivy if I had to. Thankfully, I can control it by pulling.

Alan ~ We also have stinging nettles and I've had the pleasure (?) of that experience, too! And you're right - PADDED clothing is in order because the first time I walked through a stinging nettle patch in the woods (innocently, but not for long!) I had jeans on and it got me through those. Ouch and then the itching began. Thankfully, that doesn't last long though.

Carol at OhWhatABeautifulGarden-Chicagoland.com said...

Placing the poison ivy in the glove reminds me of something similar I do with nasty weeds that refuse to die. Some weeds have long tentrils and deep roots that you just can't get to, or the weed is between good plants.Into a plastic garbage bag the weed goes WHILE STILL ROOTED, where my last resort is to spray it with round-up. The top of the bag gets tied, and the whole thing left in the garden for a few days as a warning to other would be invaders.

Kylee said...

Carol ~ That's too funny! But it's a great suggestions, too. Thanks!

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