If you live in Ohio and especially if you grew up here you probably can identify poison ivy, or think you can. Many children are taught the simple rhyme “leaves of three, let it be”. However the abundance of three-leaved plants might leave many of us casual plant enthusiasts or just those wanting to avoid that nasty, itchy rash at a bit of a loss. Not to mention the fact that poison ivy remains…well…poisonous through out the year.
In addition to the infamous three leaves, poison ivy plants feature a middle leaf which is usually longer than the others. Additionally the out leaves will often have “thumbs” or look like mittens and have either no or very little stem connecting them to the main stem. The leaves also change color in autumn to red and orange. Even after the leaves have fallen off the vines will still give most people a rash, in fact the plant remains poisonous throughout all seasons. When leafless poison ivy can be identified by it’s “hairy” vine and white berries which animals and birds will eat, but are poisonous to humans. Also note that this plant is ivy! It can grow vertically as a large vine up trees, telephone poles and another vertical structures.
Although poison ivy is notoriously hard to get rid of diligent use of chemical or homemade herbicides will eventually kill the plants. Herbicides will wash off in the rain, so plan applications, if possible, around rain storms and reapply after rains have subsided.
If doing yard work or enjoying outdoor activities in areas where poison ivy is prevalent washing immediately after your outdoor activities is highly recommended. However, note that regular soap may not break down the poisonous oil and wash it away, only move it around and possibly spread it further over your skin. A harsher soap, like Fels Naptha detergent bars, is required to breakdown and wash away the oil. In fact, stores often shelve Fels Naptha near the poison ivy treatments!
If removing large poison ivy vines from around your home or elsewhere, wear protective clothing: gloves, long sleeves, long pants, shoes and socks. Facial and eye protection are even a good idea. Do not attempt to burn poison ivy as the oil can be vaporized, inhaled and cause allergic reactions inside the body!
Finally, it is worth noting that some poison ivy reactions are medical emergencies. People who are extremely allergic and anyone having reactions near bodily orifices or sensitive areas—eyes, ears, mouth, nose etc—need to seek medical attention immediately.