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Poison Ivy Facts

What does poison ivy look like?

What is Poison Ivy?

It lies waiting, slowly climbing up backyard trees and fence lines shading out the essential sunlight necessary for the survival of all other forms of plant life. It trails over stone walls and masonry, and its roots meander by penetrating deep within the earth's cavity or surface.    It widens cracks as it re-emerges and surfaces elsewhere.  All of this and more! Poison Ivy sneaks up on you unannounced when it chokes out all of your favorite landscape ornamentals. Poison Ivy is a ubiquitous, resourceful, and tenacious plant. Its vines can travel great distances measuring  several  hundred  feet  by  trailing  above  the  ground  and growing within your shrubbery, and climbing up trees and fences by virtually attaching itself to anything within its reach (by virtue of its rootlet hairs that resemble rusty steel wool).

 

Where does Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, & Poison Sumac grow?

This  slivering  scourge  is  upon  us,  grows  from Newfoundland   to northern Florida, always is ready to greet us at first touch with a blistering  persistent  'itchy'  scratchy  hello,  being  left  behind  as  its calling card is a persistent itchy oozing rash that can last for up to 3 woebegone, torturous weeks of hell. Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, Poison Sumac is the cockroach of the plant world, able to invade and survive within the most extreme and harshest of all known growing conditions. It thrives in direct sunlight, deep-forested shade, muddied mosquito infested swamps, and sandy salt laden windswept beaches. Wherever you look, it stares back at you, innocently lying in wait, always ready to inflict its poisonous  sap upon first moments touch by those poor lesser  knowing  unsuspecting  individual  souls  who  dare  to  venture forth,  either  by touching  or brushing  too close  to the plant  end up making direct physical contact, and thereby jeopardizing their own physical personal margin of comfort and safety. 

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Poison Ivy Plant Description - Growth

Characteristics

Toxicodendron   Radicans  and  Rhus  Toxicodendron   are  known  as Poison Ivy and Poison Oak. In actuality, neither one really is ivy or oak, but rather both are related to the Cashew Tree Nut family, which includes mango, cashew nuts, and pistachio nuts. Poison Ivy vines can shoot along the ground, and if left undisturbed or untreated for several years, it may become rather woody.  Often  its  vines  exceed  the  thickness  of  an  adult  wrist  and measure up to 12 inches or more in diameter (Click For Photo).  These vines  require  the  aid  of  a  chain-saw  in  order  to  be  removed  and disposed. Erect vines found growing on trees and buildings can grow heights of 100 feet or more (Click For Photo) by randomly attaching themselves with their rootlet hairs, tracing along cracks and crevices, and scaffolding up, poles, fence lines, and building silhouettes. The vine creates an intricately dense maze consisting of lateral fibrous rootlet hairs (resembling rusty steel wool). The plant's rusty hairs provide it with the innate ability to attach itself to any surface like glue.   As a result, the plant virtually clings tightly   to   any   surface   found   within   easy   growing   reach.   This mechanism not only assures the plant's continued success, but it more importantly assures the plant's very own survival by eliminating the chances  of  survival  for  many  nearby  competing  plants  that  are  all fighting for the same precious air, water, and sunlight. This plant wins, hands down, at successfully choking out all other plant competition. In certain instances, the Poison Ivy and Poison Oak plant establishes itself by growing within the home garden. It usually gives off a chameleon-like appearance and resembles other attractive and desirable plants that often do not share the same allergy traits. Most often, Poison Ivy is confused (by being misidentified by the untrained eye) with wild strawberry, raspberry, or blackberry, flowering tea rose, acer negundo (a swamp maple tree), fraxinus americana (mountain ash tree seedlings,) acer sacrum (a sugar maple tree that is derived from polly nose seedlings, or the ones you may have placed on your nose as a child to make you look like Pinocchio), astilbe (flowering garden perennial), parthenogenisis (virginian creeper), baltic ivy, boston ivy, bittersweet, and wild grape vine.

 

 

 

Poison Ivy Leaf Description & Stem

Identification

Often times mature Poison Ivy plants grow upright and resemble a small bushy shrub or tree.(Click For Photo) Its 2" to 6"inch long green leaves are composed of three leaflets that radiate outwards from one central stem. Poison Ivy leaves can be further identified either by their waxy, smooth, and sometimes shiny surfaces or by their   two lateral side leaves (which sometimes exhibit semi-lobed and smooth-edged margins). Poison Ivy leaves never have serrate edges, as their leaf margins tend to be continuous, smooth, and free from any teeth. The Poison Ivy vines most often exhibit a cinnamon brown to light mottled gray color and they never ever have thorns, but may exhibit rootlet hairs. (Click For Photo)

 

Poison Ivy Autumn Colors and Seeds

In the early to mid-autumn these attractive shiny plants turn brilliant shades of bright orange, deep red, bright pink and intense yellow. (Click For Photos) When mature, Poison Ivy plants (those plants that are three years or older) develop small yellow greenish somewhat fragrant flowers in the spring (May thru June) (Click For Photos) which develop on the topside of the stem just immediately beneath the leafy surface area. The plants exhibit tiny 1/4 inch waxy, white-green berries, which are most often surmounted by sectional lines that divide the seed in half evenly. While the Poison Ivy berries, in reality, are Poison Ivy seeds (Click For Photos) that make their first appearance in late June, they only first become visually obvious in mid to late summer, and are known to remain until early winter. At this time, they are eaten as food by birds, squirrels, and chipmunks. Poison Ivy seeds grow grouped in cluster like panicles, as they grow similarly to grapes, but they never as large.  Poison Ivy seeds are about the same size as a tiny sesame seeds, so they are easily transported by wind, rain, and animals, which is the reasoning why this pesky plant is now as prolific as it now becomes ubiquitous.

Toxicology-Poison Ivy Allergy

The toxicology of these innocent looking plants is extreme. On the contrary to popular opinions, very few people are ever completely immune to Poison Ivy, or Poison Oak. The virulent sap found both on the leafs surface and within the plant is called 'urushiol' pronounced, “ur-oosh-oil”.  It is a non-volatile phenolic resin that suffuses itself throughout the entire plant's roots, stems, vines, leaves, flowers, and seeds.  It is best known to cause extreme skin reactions in most people who are unfortunate enough to make direct human contact with Poison Ivy. They typically only notice days later they are now being accompanied with a severe burning, itching, and violent outbreak of a Poison Ivy allergy skin rash. This is most-often accompanied by huge, watery blisters. The lesser known amount of urushiol causes a violent reaction that varies from individual to individual, but usually amounts to no greater than what fits on the head of a straight pin, equates to 6 nanograms (a grain of sand).  For example, a 1 ounce shot glass when full holds enough irritant to adversely affect a population of 50,000 people (the same amount of people found to fit inside a sold out baseball stadium). Due to the fact that urushiol is non-volatile, it doesn't evaporate; therefore it can exist indefinitely for many years. For years, scientists have theorized that if urushiol was ever discovered inside of the tombs of the great Egyptian Pharaohs, dating back more than 5500 years, it would still remain active today when touched.  Poison Ivy and Poison Oak sap is such a potent allergy irritant that even an insect on a leaf can transfer the urushiol over to an unsuspecting human. (Click For Photo).Unfortunately,  urushiol  is  persistent  and  remains  active  for  many several  years, and infects many hands or fingers  when placed on a door knob handle or garden tools that were previously touched by contaminated   hands.  Poison Ivy and Poison Oak is also easily transmitted from your pet's fur.  Most pets are immune to Poison Ivy/ Poison Oak, and you and your children always remain at greater risk. You easily can become infected thru transference simply by touching your pet's fur coat.
 

What to do once skin contact with Poison Ivy urushiol has been made.

Cleansing yourself of the URUSHIOL Resin Immediately:

(Pronounced....Ur oosh i oil) :-)

If physical human contact is directly made with any part of the Poison Ivy/Poison Oak/Poison Sumac plant, it is imperative that you immediately wash those affected body parts for 3 minutes or longer with COLD running water in combination with the use of a strong detergent soap.  Under no circumstances should you ever use hot water. Hot water causes the skin's pores to open up wide and allows any  undesirable  Poison  Ivy  irritant,  to  enter  into,  and  be  absorbed deeply within, the outer lying layer of skin. Failure to cold-water bathe your affected body parts with a strong detergent soap will likely assure that a rash will soon develop.  Poison Ivy allergy symptoms usually appear within first 12-72 hours following with severe itching, burning sensation, and lots of oozing blisters. The time lag between onset of skin  contact  and  the  first  rash  outbreak  appearance  usually  occurs within a few short minutes, or can it be delayed up to 72 hours. This delay is somewhat determined by your composite DNA make up, age, and related blood type chemistry.

Myth of Spreading by Scratching:

Contrary to popular opinion, scratching Poison Ivy blisters or Poison Ivy rash will not spread the known toxin, urushiol (this is assuming you already have showered or vigorously washed all affected body parts at least once).  The  irritant,  urushiol,  is  not  found  or  located within  these  blisters  or  the  oozing  lymph  liquid.  However,  it  is important,  for  your  own  health  reasons,  that  you  do  not  scratch, break, or rupture these blisters.  They can easily rupture, and once they do, harmful bacteria may enter into the skin's outer surface through the open wound.  This harmful bacterial infection can enter your blood stream, causing a post-secondary infection, which may result in   the formation   of abscesses,   enlarged or swollen glands, sore joints, running a fever and even worse - death may result. Any of these post- secondary infections ordinarily require additional medical treatment or care by a trained professional. Just recently, we learned of an extreme case of a Poison Ivy allergy rash: a landscape grounds crew member first  contacted  the  Poison  Ivy  plant  while  cutting  grass,  and  he discovered too late that he was allergic, developed an itchy rash, huge  blisters,  and  a  fever.  Soon  afterwards  this  individual's  open poison ivy rash blisters became infected by a drug-resistant strain of staph  infection,  and  eventually  this  unwitting  individual  ended  up dying as a result.

When in doubt, leaves of three... let them be.








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