Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Poison ivy, Virginia creeper, and other condundrums

I've been allergic to poison ivy since childhood, so I'm very familiar with how to identify it and avoid contamination.  (I'm crazed about making sure our dogs - over the years - haven't picked up the urushiol from the leaves on hikes, etc. -- and if they have, it's always been bath time!)

So, it's with some humility, and annoyance, that I'm suffering through the worst case of poison ivy that I've had in years.  Most unwelcome, although happily it's not all over my face (that's the worst!)

The saga started about a week ago, with weeding Virginia creeper seedlings in our front woodland border.  There were LOTS of them this year, so I was glad to have the opportunity to pull most of them up, before they covered the woodland wildflowers that we're nurturing!

But, Virginia creeper seedlings can often have 3 leaflets as the first set of true leaves -- this photo from another blog illustrates this nicely, and we've seen seedlings like this in our garden, too.

They're "ringers" for poison ivy.

So, as I was blithely weeding Virginia creeper, I must have also pulled up a poison ivy seedling, or two, as well, thinking it was Virginia creeper.  And, unfortunately, even though I washed my hands after coming back in, I didn't do my usual thorough washing up (immediately) that would follow a potential poison ivy exposure.  We've been so thorough about trying to eradicate poison ivy from our landscapes, I wasn't even thinking about the potential for seedlings.  Hmm, since in a former life I did research in germination ecology, I should have thought about this!

Lots of (native plant and other) seedlings have become established this year, after a very good fruit production year last season.

Here's a comparison of Virginia creeper and poison ivy, from another blog called Identify that Plant.

Virginia creeper on the left, poison ivy on the right
So, I have bad patches on my arms, with secondary patches elsewhere.  Nothing too dreadful, but much worse rashes from the direct contact than I normally would have (from secondary contact).

A cautionary tale, for sure.  With itchy arms to show for it.

For those of you that are interested in the dermatology behind the reaction to the oils, this is an excellent explanation about contact dermatitis.

1 comment:

  1. I sympathize heartily. In Illinois, box elder seedlings also look a lot like poison ivy. The difference is that box elder, a member of the maple family, has opposite leaves, while poison ivy has alternate leaves.


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