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Monday, June 18, 2012

Leaves of Three

Though you may not know what it is referring to, I am sure that everyone has at least heard the old addage: "Leaves of Three Let Them Be."  This is referring to poison ivy, and the burning itchy rash that it leaves on some unlucky hikers when they come across this plant.  I must first tell you that I do not really react to the plant (now that I have said that, I'll probably be covered in a rash the next time I go into the woods) however, I have seen countless people who do not fare well when they come in contact with the plant.  I completely understand your aversion to the plant! The example on the right of the text is a great way to visualize what poison ivy looks like, but this white color is an unusual form that does not happen that often.  This is a form of chlorosis or lack of chlorophyll most typically from a lack of iron in the soil. 

Perhaps we can come to a compromise about Toxicodendron radicans (Poison Ivy) even the Latin name seems intimidating doesn't it?  While the plant gives you a rash, the berries it produces tend to be a great source of food for overwintering birds, or birds that migrate through our area late in the year.  Have you always wanted to see Cedar Waxwings? One of the berries that sustain them is the berry from the poison ivy plant?  My thought for a compromise, remove it from the places on your property that you frequent so that you will not be plagued with a rash but try to keep it on the property in places that no one tends to go.  This will leave some of the plant as food for birds while keeping you from having to deal with the itching.  

If you do come in contact with poison ivy and you know that it will create a rash.  It is important to take a cold shower as quickly as possible.  Lava soap is a great way to help to remove the oils from your skin.  The cold water thing may be an old wives tale however the line of reasoning that I have heard makes perfect sense.  The cold water does not open up your pores as quickly so the oils are easier to remove from your skin.  One of nature's great remedies for poison ivy will show up next to it in the wild is Jewelweed (
Impatiens capensis) as you can see in the above photograph, the two plants are growing together. If you happen to be out on a camping trip and touch poison ivy, just take a jewel weed plant, break it in half, and then rub the aloe like material onto your skin.  This is a great natural remedy for poison ivy.   Please be respectful if you use this technique and do not pull the plant up from the roots. I subscribe to the "Leave No Trace" theory but I do understand if you need to break a piece of a plant off to remedy any ill effects from poison ivy.

I just ask that you keep an open mind when you come across poison ivy, it may give you a rash, but it does have a place in our woodlands.

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