Monday, May 21, 2018
One of America's Great Newspapers ~ Toledo, Ohio

Amy Stone


Use extreme caution when dealing with poison ivy

Are you kidding me? It looks like there are red fireworks all over my arms. I can get a preview of the Independence Day fireworks by just looking at my forearms. There was a big poison ivy vine growing in my garden, and guess what? I found it. You'd think I would learn. I had the same problem last August, but this time I thought I outwitted the clingy oil. But, no, I wiped it under my chin, on my arms, my back, and even under my nose.

Push out the poison

It is really tough to get rid of poison ivy, so get ready for a long fight. You can keep digging it out of your yard and pulling it out by hand while you are protected from head to toe. Ohio State University scientists say if someone wants a non-chemical way to get rid of it, you have to dig it out and continually cut it back. This will take a long time, and someone will have to stay on top of the situation.

Looking for the magic chemical to give you a hand? Look for triclopyr or glyphosate on the label. You will find it in products such as Brush-B-Gone, Rodeos, and Roundup. But these chemicals don't discriminate between poison ivy and your favorite hydrangea bush. If you get some of that chemical on a plant that you love, you might have to dig it up and toss it on the compost pile in a month.

If the ivy is covering a tree or shrub, cut it down to the ground and get rid of as much of the root as you can. Spray the stump with herbicide and let the plant carry the systemic chemical through its system where it dies a slow death.

Itchy oil

There's an old saying that goes, "Leaves of three, let them be." Yeah, that is a good idea. Did you know it is actually related to the cashew? The leaves are red in the early spring, green in the summer, then turn orange and yellow in the fall. All parts of the plant contain a skin irritating oil called urushiol oil. The parasitic vine will stick to other trees or vegetation and pulls its nutrition from the host plant. It creates oil all year long, even in the dead of winter.

You can track the oil into your house if it is on the bottom of your shoes, it can cling to your clothing and stay there for a while, and you can transfer it to your skin days later if you aren't careful. Or you can grab it with your gloved hand like I probably did, and spread it to your face and back.

The urushiol oil can stay active on a surface for up to five years, even if the plant is dead. A quarter ounce of this potent oil can make just about everyone on the globe start itching. But, despite what you might think, you can't spread poison ivy by scratching that rash. It only spreads if more oil is present to find a new spot to irritate.

Poison ivy don'ts

Don't run over poison ivy with your mower, spreading it all around your yard and don't burn it. The smoke can cause severe damage to your lungs. Don't forget to wash your clothes well if they have been exposed to poison ivy. Don't forget to wash your skin thoroughly with soap and water to remove any oil on your skin if you are exposed. Quickly washing it off will stop the rash from forming, but unfortunately, not soon enough for me. And when you are pulling weeds including poison ivy with gloved hands, don't scratch your back or wipe your chin.

I thought I was covered, literally, with long sleeves and gloves, but it wasn't enough. This time I think I will need even more than calamine lotion.

Contact Kelly Heidbreder at

Click to comment

Quis autem vel eum iure reprehenderit qui in ea voluptate velit esse quam nihil molestiae consequatur, vel illum qui dolorem?

Temporibus autem quibusdam et aut officiis debitis aut rerum necessitatibus saepe eveniet.

Copyright © 2018 Toledo Blade

To Top

Fetching stories…