Poison Ivy- Scientific name: Toxicodendron radicans
Poison Ivy is a poisonous plant that grows in North America, Mexico, southern Canada and some parts of Asia. There are many different variables that factor into it's appearance such as: location in relation to the sun, maturity and the form its growing in(vine growth, ground cover or stand-alone plant). The leaves are almond-like in shape and always grow in three's on each individual stem. It is not uncommon for each of the three leaves on one stem to have different characteristics such as color, size or shape.
The 3 Growth Types
- Ground Cover- Probably the most common form of growth- the poison ivy tends to grow across the ground surface. It can be ankle high or knee-high depending on how mature it is at the time of encounter.
- Individual Plant- I call these "Stand-Alone" plants. Sometimes they grow out in the open, other times they grow in and around weeds or other types of plant life. I've personally seen this form grow to a height of 7 feet however, there have been others that have seen it at a height of over 10ft. In this form it only has a few side branches growing from the tall standing stem.
- Vine Growth- This is the form in which poison ivy reaches it's most formidable size. The poison ivy shoots out "Runners" attaching itself to a tree,wall or fence and continues to climb up the chosen object. The objective of the poison ivy, in this case, is to find the perfect mixture of sun and shade or filtered light so that it can achieve sexual maturity(produce berries). Once it achieves it's desired height the poison ivy then begins to spread horizontally and in the process, produces berries for continued spread and survival of the plant. The original "Runner" which now qualifies as a bonafide vine, continues to increase in size (mainly the width of the vine) and strength. I have personally encountered vine growth ranging in the ages of 4yrs old-40 yrs old. I've tackled vine growth as thin as my pinky and as thick as both of my forearms combined.
Poison Ivy Berries
The fruits or "Berries" of Poison Ivy are tiny, white pumpkin-shaped seeds. The outer skin of the berries are green during spring and summer and a pale yellow during the fall. The berries almost always grow in a grape-like cluster attached to the stems of the Poison Ivy plant directly under or next to the leaflets. Various species of birds consume these berries for the outer skin of the berry. The seed itself remains undigested and passes through the bird, returning to the ground. You can say that the birds are the vehicle through which the Poison Ivy is most commonly spread. For this reason, I make it top priority to rid a client's property of any sexually mature plants first before digging any other form.
Poison Ivy Throughout The Seasons
During the spring a good portion of the Poison Ivy leaves will have a look of a deep burgundy on the edges of the leaflets when they start to bloom. During the Summer the Poison Ivy leaflets are different shades of green. In the fall the leaflets change to a vibrant red or yellow color. In the winter there are no longer any visible leaves however, it is still possible to spot the poison ivy growth based off of the unique look of the vine(red hairs & light grey or brown vine color) and the white berries ( which have been exposed due to the outer skin drying, flaking and falling off in the winter). You can also spot the poison ivy vine a little easier by looking for the black stains left by the Urishol when it leaks onto the vines and stems. Urishol is the chemical contained in poison ivy that causes rashes, blisters, bumps and itching.
Human Reaction To Poison Ivy- Medical Term: Rhus Dermatitus
Poison Ivy contains a chemical called Urishol that causes itchy rashes, blisters and irritation to the skin. The human population varies in their sensitivity to Urishol. Some people have no reaction to the chemical at all while others are so allergic that they need to be hospitalized. Your resistance level can vary throughout your lifetime so even if you aren't allergic now, you could be mildly to deathly allergic in the latter stages of your lifespan. This is one of the main reasons why I educate my clients as much as possible when providing my service. The chief goal is to prevent contact or exposure to poisonous plants all together.