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Today’s post is coming to you again from Mr. Mike Bennett. Learn from his first hand experiences with a mean little plant.


Fall is soon to be upon us. Cooler temperatures, shorter days, football and all those beautiful fall colors. Getting up close and personal with some of those colorful leaves can get you into trouble though. Some people, myself included, are very allergic to a mean little unassuming plant, called poison ivy.

It’s estimated that only about 15% of the population is not allergic to poison ivy, and I am definitely not one of them. My doctor has told me each exposure to it takes you down a notch in being immune, until finally you are no longer immune, so if you are one of the lucky 15%, you still need to take proper precautions.

Poison ivy during this time of year will be one of the very first to turn color. Usually a very reddish-orange color. A very tell-tale sign is seeing these beautiful vining red leaves on a power pole or tree trunks.

Poison Ivy

“Leaves by three, stay away from me”…. I believe is the saying about this little evil plant. Three leaves off of one stem, and a hairy woody vine are signs to stay away. The allergic reaction is caused by the plant’s chemical, urushiol, which is a colorless resin/oil found in both the leaves & vine.

Clothes, shoes, even tools and can actively carry the resin for months after the initial contact. It’s said that the plant can carry the urushiol for up to a year after it has died.

I told you this was a mean plant!

There are a few old wives tales that are not based in fact and in some cases very dangerous. For instance, don’t burn the plants – especially in the city limits. Don’t eat the leaves; contact with mouth can cause blisters in the mouth and in extreme cases can cause your throat to swell shut. And despite its ugly rash, no, it is not contagious.

You have to come in contact with the resin/oil, not the rash. Now you could still have some on your shoes or clothing to transfer to someone else….or like me after a horrible outbreak lasting over 4 weeks, go and use the same tools as before and get it again without any direct plant contact.

Did I mention it’s a mean plant yet?

If you think you may have come in contact with poison ivy resist the urge to rub your eyes, face or other tender areas. Trust me on that, I learned that lesson the hard way. I had a diagonal line thru my face over my left eye with it swollen shut for days after wiping the sweat from my brow. I could have made a great pirate… ARGHHH.

Stay far away is the best plan to avoid poison ivy. But if you must go out into the woods for hunting, or nature walking, hiking etc., please take proper precautions. There are several over-the-counter soaps and lotions that are specific in aiding you to not get any resin on you that can be absorbed into your skin. Long sleeves and long pants are a great precaution as well. And I would always wash very aggressively after any such outing. It’s going to take more than just soap, and usually a lot of friction, to displace any resin/oil off of your skin.

Pets generally don’t have issues with poison ivy, but do be careful around them if they were in the woods with you. The resin/oil can be on their coat and transfer to you just by normal contact.

If poison ivy has managed to make it into your landscape, your best bet is to remove if over the winter by physically cutting it out once all the leaves have shriveled and fallen. Again use proper precautions and wash well after because the oil can be found in the vine as well.

Poison ivy can also sometimes be controlled with herbicide applications depending on the location and the surrounding vegetation. When in doubt, give LawnAmerica, Inc. a call. We will be happy to take a look and help determine the best course of action for this mean little plant.

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