Feel like itching that scratch…

I realized this morning that it had been a bit longer that I would have liked in between blog posts, but I’ve been out of town visiting my mother.  She is the one who introduced me to gardening when I was very young.  For as long as I can remember she always gardened, but early on in my young life gardening was not my thing. I remember planting a window box with one of those mixed flower seed packets and that was than the end of it.  It became all hers’ to take care. Such a sweet child huh?  Hey, my seeds managed to grow a lupine from seed that bloomed its first year, I was good I was great!  Lupine don’t normally bloom until their second year of growth. Point for me.  Anyways, I have to thank her for everything she has ever done for me in my life.  She is an amazing person and I am grateful that I can say that she is my mom. So, we’ve been running around and I’ve been having great fun taking pictures of her gardens and plants and I have a great pile of pictures that I can use for some fun blog posts.

Today I really wanted to show you something that I feel is important and often many aren’t sure how to identify.  Drum roll…..poison ivy.  Yuck.  For some just the name makes people feel itchy.  I for one have absolutely no idea if I’m allergic.  Some aren’t allergic, some who weren’t allergic as a child after too much exposure became sensitive to poison ivy and now are allergic.  I know I must have run into it as a child, there was just no way I couldn’t have, but I’m not about to go sticking my hand on it just to find out. So, when in doubt stay away.

Leaves of three…let it be. That’s the saying for identifying poison ivy, but there is a catch. There are other plants out there that have 3 leaves.  Early in the season raspberries have three leaves, but they have thorns on their stems, poison ivy doesn’t.  Poison ivy also produces white berries and if it’s growing as a vine up a tree, the stem looks like a rope with little root looking things growing out from it.

Poison Ivy

Yup, there it is in all its glory.  Poison ivy. It always has three leaflets, with the center leaflet being held out and away from the other two.  Sometimes the leaves will look like mittens, especially more mature leaves.  Young leaves often look like…

Young Poison ivy

In this picture you can kind of see that mitten like shape on the young leaves.  Come fall the leaves will turn bright red.  I’ll have to remember to keep an eye out for poison ivy in the fall and after they’ve produced berries so that I can show you.

Poison ivy contains an oil called urushiol which is what causes the allergic reaction and makes you itch like crazy and develop those blisters commonly associated with a reaction.  The level of reaction you have from poison ivy just depends on how allergic you are.

When I used to teach 5th graders about identifying poison ivy, I always told them that it was the sneaky plant. I has three ways of growing.  See…it tries and tricks you and sucker you in to not realizing what it really is.  It is a ninja plant. It can grow as a vine up a tree or pole, produce a single stem with just 3 leaflets like in the pictures above, or can grow like a shrub/tree type thing.  So not cool.

Any part of the plant contains the oil.  Summer, spring, fall, winter, doesn’t matter.  You can get poison ivy anytime of the year.  And one of the number one things you DO NOT DO with poison ivy besides touch it?  You never ever, ever, ever burn it.  It releases the oil into the air and you can breathe it into your lungs.  Hows that for a new level of not cool. So be careful, when in doubt avoid it.  If you’re unsure if it’s poison ivy and want to post a picture and ask, you can visit me over on The Garden Sprout facebook page or email me at contactthegardensprout @ gmail.com.

There is one plant that is often confused as being poison ivy.

Virginia Creeper

This is Virginia creeper.  It has 5 leaves held in a whorl pattern.  So, this is not poison ivy but is often confused with it.

So hopefully you have a bit better understanding of what poison ivy looks like.  Just to clarify in other areas there is also poison oak and poison sumac, but where I’m located poison ivy is what we worry about.  You can find plenty of websites out there that will provide you pictures of poison oak and sumac if you want to go browsing.  I figure it’s always a good idea to learn more especially with plants that cause allergic reactions.  Better safe than sorry, I’m bad enough trying to not scratch mosquito bites.

Happy gardening!


1 thought on “Feel like itching that scratch…”

  1. Thanks for posting this! I have been doing research for days thinking the VA Creeper was poison oak. It’s taken over my trees and garden. Time to pull them all without worry!

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