For people who really get into nature, who just want to embrace all that lovely lush, green foliage and roll around in it, think again. If you can’t keep your distance and avoid reaching out to touch and feel, a dose of poison ivy might be your reward.
These are problem plants:
Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) is the most common; it’s a vine that typically grows up tree trunks but can also show up in bushes and in other unsuspected places. It has pointy leaves in clusters of three in various sizes and they turn a vivid red in the fall. The vine clings to the tree with tiny hair-like roots that are also poisonous. If you are a committed tree hugger or one of those people who just has to bound up the next tree you see, remember this saying: “Hairy vine – no friend of mine.”
Poison Oak (Toxicodendron pubescens) is a shrub with leaves that are also in clusters of three. The leaves are similar in pattern to those of the white oak tree. I suggest you look these up and remember the shape.
Useful sayings associated with these two plants include: "Leaves of three; let it be" or “One, two, three - don't touch me."
Poison Sumac (Toxicodendron vernix) is a shrub or small tree (of up to 30 ft. in height!) typically found in swamps. It has leaf clusters of 7-13 leaves and is considered far more toxic than the other two. Staying out of the swamp should be no problem for most people but those that do need to memorize what this plant looks like and avoid contact.
All it takes is one innocent brush against any one of these plants. Their leaves, stems, vines, seeds, flowers and bark contain an oil called URUSHIOL (oo-roo-shee-awl). Its a chemical that quickly seeps into the pores of the skin and causes irritation, blisters, itching and even death if inhaled in quantities of smoke.
For many people, a patch of infected skin may itch for a couple of days then quickly heal. Some people aren’t even affected. Stores sell inexpensive creams to temporarily relieve the itch; more expensive creams actually draw the urushiol right out of the pores and hasten the healing process. Some people are known to wipe themselves down with watered-down bleach as a preventative. If it gets too bad, please go see a doctor. Long sleeves and gloves also help protect but the best strategy is stay away!If you would like us to show you what these plants look like, please visit us at Camp Salmen Nature Park. We’d be glad to show you around.