Saturday, October 31, 2009

Pretty Poison

On this All Hallow's Eve, I bring you photos of a truly frightening plant -- the lovely native vine known as Poison Ivy. This time of year in the DC-area it is turning a marvelous rainbow of colors, making it very easy to spot in your lawn grass, leaf piles, or browning perennial borders. It is a vine, but it can also disguise itself as a spreading groundcover or even as a seedling tree. Don't confuse it with another color-turning, native vine, Virginia Creeper, which is stunning in fall, but has a quite different leaf shape and growth habit.

This is the best time of year to catch up before it takes over next spring and you are no longer easily able to distinguish from all the other new, green things. My control method is similar to a hazmat team. Before I even start, I open up my clothes washer and set a path from door to the washer and to my shower so that I do not have to touch any walls, doorknobs, light swotches, etc. to get to them after exposure. I put on leather gardening gloves then grab some newspaper sleeve bags. I pull those on my hands up to my elbows and then put rubberbands over to keep them in place. I often double-bag my arms to be sure of no break-through. I then get grocery bags and rip out the poison ivy and put it in one bag, then double that bag. Then carefully peel off my arm bags and place them and the poison ivy-filled bags in another bag for good measure. Never, ever compost it or burn it.

Note that I took all of these photos this morning in one 20-yard patch of Poison Ivy on the edge of a park and a state highway in Montgomery County, Maryland. The amount of color variation is amazing and runs from bright yellow-green to dark green through yellow to oranges and burgundy red. This is just feet from a playground and a metro bus stop, so BEWARE in your travels and haunts where you step! Have a wonderful Halloween!


Nell Jean said...

Hi, I found my way here by way of Blotanical.

I do what you do with the plastic bags over the arm.

The only tip I didn't see here is to bathe in cold water, not hot. There is a rationale concerning heat spreading the urushiol from the plant and also warm water opens the pores. We're just trying to get the stuff washed off.

I'm always afraid the dog is going to bring me some, too.

WashingtonGardener said...

Excellent point, Nell Jeam, about not bathing in hot water after PI exposure. Also good idea not to use soap unless it is a specific PI-wash. Both ot water & soap open up your pores and make the ittirtant enter further, cool water - even using a garden hose outside will rinse it off.
Yeah, animals are good for that - and you never know sometimes how you were exposed.

MrBrownThumb said...

I sometimes wish I had more than a postage size garden, but then I read posts like these that make me realize a small garden is the best for me. I can't imagine what it must be like to deal with this beast when you have a large area it has taken over.

Thanks for the comment on the 'garden bloggers' blog, really appreciate the feedback.