Looking Back: Avoid Those Chromes | Hartsville

We’re walking through pastures this month and looking at native plants and our relationship with them.

This week we take a look at the vine that most people avoid…poison ivy.

We avoid it for good reason.

Most of us – 85% – are allergic to the plant. Every part of the poison ivy plant is poisonous. This includes leaves, vines, roots, berries…well, you get the idea.

Let’s start by helping you identify a harmful plant.

If you’re not familiar with this rhyme, memorize it… “Leaves of three, so be it.” It has three green leaves in clusters, so make this your first warning.

Like a vine growing on the sides of trees. It can reach a height of 60 feet, and the stem circumference can reach several inches. Despite its name, it is not a member of the ivy family but is more closely related to mangoes and cashews.

If you’re removing a row of hedgerows, or simply working in your garden and you see a suspicious vine, treat it like a piece of radioactive waste… don’t touch it.

The plant contains a substance called urushiol that it secretes.

This oily secretion then adheres to the skin.

Although urushiol does not cause skin irritation, it does play tricks on your immune system, causing your immune system to attack the skin, as if your skin were the enemy.

If you think repeated exposure to poison ivy will lead to immunity, think again. The more you are exposed to it, over time, the worse your reaction will be.

I pulled several poison ivy plants from the trees, carefully cut them down, and threw them in a pile away from human contact. I’m wearing gloves, as you can imagine. I never burned it, after I was warned. Even the smoke from burning poison ivy can get into your lungs and cause a not-so-good reaction. It can be fatal.

The vine will extend along the ground looking for a tree or anything to make it taller. If he doesn’t find anything to climb, he can create a small bush for himself. Sneaky little devil, right?

But you may be wondering about your dog or cat’s connection to it.
Well, they’re immune, as are deer, birds, snakes, squirrels, and almost any other animal. Birds eat the berries without any ill effect.

Only humans interact with urushiol.

If your dog comes into contact with the vine and then you pet him, you can get a rash just as easily as if you touched it yourself.

The rash may appear immediately or wait a few days.

The rash will turn red, itchy, and can form small blisters.

The more you scratch, the worse the itch gets.

When I was a kid, I was told not to break pimples because the fluid in the pimple would spread the poison…but that’s an old wives’ tale. The blister secretes a water-like, harmless substance.

However, doctors do not recommend breaking blisters as this may lead to infection if not kept clean.

A cold bath can relieve some of the discomfort, as can home remedies such as calamine lotion. Oatmeal and baking soda baths can bring relief.

Otherwise, expect to feel painful itching for up to a week before the reaction begins to weaken. However, it can last up to a month.

Its close relative, poison oak, is not as widespread and, like poison ivy, also has three leaves. So it’s helpful to remember the rhyme mentioned earlier.

Unfortunately, poison ivy is found throughout Tennessee and prefers dry soil and hillsides.

While I would cut any poison ivy from trees near the house, the best solution to having poison ivy on your property is to leave it alone.

The vines do no harm to the trees they cling to, and I have seen copious amounts on fences and even the sides of old houses.

Respect Poison Ivy, and it will respect you in return. Let the birds enjoy the fruit, and let the squirrels frolic as they please among the leaves and vines. Just keep a safe distance away from him.

    (tags for translation) hartsville

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