gardenchatter

Garden adventures and advice…


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Is It Poison Ivy or Oak?

I had someone ask me that question the other day – and either way, you don’t want them in the garden.

Both are plants that cause a red, itchy rash – sometimes blistering, as a result of contact with the oil contained within the plant – urushiol (yoo-roo-she-all). You will get the rash from contact with any part of the plant, flowers, berries, leaves, roots – even dead ones – so always wear long gloves and eye protection when erradicating poison ivy or oak. You can even get the rash from touching something that has come in contact with the plant – clothing, tools, even pet fur.

Eliminating poison ivy and oak takes time. Don’t burn it, inhaling the smoke can cause health problems including inflammation of the nasal passages and lungs. Smaller patches can be dealt with by regular hoeing and breaking up of the plants. They won’t continue to grow or spread if they don’t flower and develop berries.  Regular mowing of larger patches will eventually eliminate the weed, but be sure to wear protective clothing and boots to avoid rashes on your legs or feet. Wash your clothes and boots well after a task like this, the oils will remain until safely removed. Poison ivy and oak do take time to remove and you may see the odd stem sprouting up over the season, but as long as you know where it is, you can avoid it until it’s no longer a threat.
And if all else fails – get a goat! Goats actually enjoy muching on this plant. They’ll have it gone in no time!

 

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Both plants can be identified by their distinct 3-leaf arrangement. Poison ivy can grow as a shrub, reaching up to 4-feet high, as a groundcover, or climbing vine. The almond-shape leaves range from light to dark green and turn brilliant red in the fall. Poison ivy produces flowers, and then small berries that are a beigy-grey-white shade.

 

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Poison oak has a scalloped 3-leaf arrangement that looks very similar to true oak leaves. Grown as a dense shrub or climing vine, the leaf shades vary from bronze to bright green to red, depending on the season.

 

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