Don't Touch It! Poison Ivy!

Don't Touch It! Poison Ivy!

Part of Ep. 1602 The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Judith Reith-Rozelle, Assistant Superintendent at the West Madison Ag Research Station, helps us learn about the spread of poison ivy plants, how to identify them and what to do if you come in contact with them. Shelley Ryan also a closer look at eco-friendly pots.

Premiere date: May 14, 2008

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley:
This is one of Wisconsin's most prolific native species. Unfortunately, you don't want to find it in your yard and garden. This is poison ivy. And we're here today to talk about identifying it and what to do if you find it in your own backyard. I'm with the assistant superintendent of the West Madison Agricultural Research Station Judith Reith-Rozelle. You and I have both had wonderful experience with poison ivy popping up on our property.

Judith:
Oh, yes.

Shelley:
Surprise!  It's one of those plants that I know is becoming more of a problem, too.

Judith:
Yes, it is. It is becoming more of a problem with global warming.

Shelley:
I knew that was the problem! 

Judith:
They're saying it's becoming more vigorous. It grows more rapidly and is colonizing bigger areas. So it is a big problem now.

Shelley:
And I've heard not only is it more vigorous, I've heard that it's actually more toxic.

Judith:
Oh, yes.

Shelley:
And it's already pretty toxic.

Judith:
You would not want to touch this because you do get an awful rash. Or, about 80% of the population get an awful rash. And then they get blisters. The rash turns into blisters, and it progresses into a real nasty skin eruption.

Shelley:
Very serious. If you touch that, wash off immediately. Don't pet your dog if you've run through it because, then, the dog's fine but you've got it on your hands from the dog.

Judith:
It can also get on your clothing, so make sure you wash that clothing.

Shellehy:
The key is identification because then you know what you're getting into. One of the first keys for me are these lovely kind of white-yellow-white berries. Those stay on that little stick all winter long right into early spring, even before the leaves are up. I didn't know at first that poison ivy had berries. Then a couple of years ago someone came up to me at the Garden Expo with this gorgeous bouquet of poison ivy berries!  That's one of the easiest things to identify in early spring. The problem is sometimes they get confused with these dogwood berries. These have red stems so that's one way to tell the difference.

Judith:
Yeah, that's one very good way because they do grow in the same locality. You can find them right next to each other so you want to be able to identify both of them.

Shelley:
In gardens, woodlands, and bike trails like this one. This isn't just for gardeners.

Judith:
This is another native species so you'll find it all over Wisconsin.

Shelley:
That's right. So again, identification is the key. It looks more like these berries.

Judith:
These have a more green path, and are right on the stem.

Shelley:
The leaves themselves can actually be kind of a quandary. There is a wide variety.

Judith:
Oh, yes. The one here that you see has very smooth leaflets.
Shelley:
That's kind of your classic.

Judith:
That's your classic, a little glossy. And this is a tri-foliate. This is a leaf, and these are each leaflets. So this whole thing is a leaf.  That's what you want to look for, the three leaflets. But poison ivy does vary, as we said. It can vary, as this one... This one has teeth on it.

Shelley:
Oh, look at the leaves here. So you may think, "Oh, I know poison ivy."  It has smooth leaves. It has three tri-foliates. And I can identify that as a tri-foliate. Then you come over here and say, "Hm..."  Some of them will even develop like a mitten, like mulberry. So that's really hard to identify.

Shelley:
I've also seen some the size of dinner plates and some with fall color climbing up trees.

Judith:
They will climb up trees just like the Virginia Creeper that climbs up. Very similar in shape on the tendrils that go up. One of the big problems when people are out cutting wood, they don't realize the vine is poison ivy. Then they burn some of that wood and the smoke can be a major problem.

Shelley:
Very dangerous. It gets in the mucous membranes and their eyes.

Judith:
It's better to identify it than get in trouble.

Shelley:
Once you identify it, don't burn it. I assume you don't compost it.

Judith:
Right, you don't want to do that.

Shelley:
What would we do with it instead then? 

Judith:
You would really put it in bags if you're going to pull it out. It is a perennial. So you have to remove the roots. If you're going to do this by hand and not use a chemical.

Shelley:
What are you using on your hands? 

Judith:
I'm using what I brought along!  These are very heavy vinyl gloves.

Shelley:
Don't use the disposable gloves.

Judith:
No, and don't use lab gloves, anything like that.

Shelley:
Something thick and impenetrable. And then wash them when you're done.

Judith:
Wash them with soap and water before you take them off so you don't take them off and get it on your hands.

Shelley:
Let's say I'm one of those people that doesn't even want to touch it. Chemicals. What would I do if I don't want to smother it or dig it? 

Judith:
You can use two herbicides, two different classes. One is Round-Up, which will kill everything that you spray it on. Glyphosate, Round-Up is the common name. You can come in and spray it early spring or late fall and everything will die. You could use a paintbrush.

Shelley:
So just painting the specific leaves? 

Judith:
Yes, paint the leaf. Or, you could use 2-4-D, which is a broadleaf herbicide. You can spray, but all of the broadleafs will die. Again, you can come in and use a paintbrush to paint those areas.

Shelley:
Okay, but whatever you do, those are toxic chemicals so read the labels and follow the instructions.

Judith:
Right, that's a good point. Make sure you read the labels and that the chemical you're using is labeled for poison ivy.

Shelley:
The most important thing is to know your enemy.

Judith:
That's right.
Shelley:
Thanks Judy.

Judith:
You're welcome, Shelley.

A Closer Look at Pots

Shelley:
Here's a wonderful new idea from Planterra Pottery. This is an eco-friendly pot. Basically, it's biodegradable made from natural vegetable fibers that will degrade over time. So, it's recyclable and earth friendly. Eco-friendly pots come in natural colors and simple designs. Here are some other earth-friendly ideas. Give old dishes and mugs new life as containers for small plants. If they don't have drainage holes in them use them for small bog or water plants. Or, put a masonry bit on your drill and put a hole in them. Even a hollow log can be used as a wonderful planter. And one last idea. If you break pots, don't throw away the pieces. You can give old, broken pottery new life. Do a mosaic. I have a wonderful new container made out of old pots. You know another great thing about epiphytes? There is absolutely no way you're going to get these confused with poison ivy! If you'd like more information about any of the topics we've discussed today please check out our Web site. Now I need a pot for my epiphytes. There! Don't you wish all gardening was that easy? I'm Shelley Ryan. Thanks for watching the “Wisconsin Gardener.”

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