Even though I’ve tried my best to eradicate poison ivy from our property, I still find patches here and there. And often I’ll also find one small plant where I least expect to, where birds might have dropped a seed.
Many look for berries as the end-all signal when they suspect poison ivy, but these are not always present or are hidden under the top section of a larger plant. And you can easily mistake this ivy with other plant life if you’re not careful.
Though it’s called an ivy, it doesn’t always seem vine-like nor trailing, but can look more like a small weed or large plant, depending on growth. It has three leaves that hang down and the green color can vary from young to older plant, but this nasty itchy poison ivy can grow just about anywhere and often snuggles in close to other foliage, so it can be hard to detect its presence.
I’ve found that it usually starts off reddish in the Spring, but quickly turns to a vivid green during the summer to more easily blend in with surroundings. In the Fall, it turns red as it starts to die off seasonally. About.com’s Guide to Landscaping has some great photos, so you can see the different colors and leaf detail of this plant.
For those who don’t know, the itchy oil from the ivy can stay active on your garden gloves, tools or boots for up to a year. And don’t even think of burning a patch of it; it will make a toxic smoke for your lungs.
The best remedy if you come into contact with it is to wash the area right away with a grease-fighting dish detergent, or apply rubbing alcohol to it, either of which tends to breakdown the oily residue. But be careful, it doesn’t really spread on its own, but if you don’t remove the oil, you can easily transfer it yourself, to various areas you might touch. And avoid bathing when you first get a patch till you’ve cleaned off the oil, because you can spread it around to other skin areas that way.
Regardless, you’ll still have an itchy skin reaction to deal with. There are several compounds on the market for poison ivy, just ask your pharmacist. Some lotions are more effective than others. The rash can last up to six weeks, but I’ve seen it clear a lot sooner with a special ointment.
Every year, I take the grandchildren on a walk through our area and remind them of what it looks like and where to avoid, while they are playing about. Long pants and socks can help to prevent coming into contact with poison ivy, but that can be uncomfortable on a hot sunny day. Best to recognize the plants and just avoid those areas.
I’ve learned not to fear the outdoors, just be informed and ready to deal it should anyone come into contact with poison ivy. You can to!