Poison Ivy – An Education

I am very allergic to poison ivy. I have had it so often, multiple times per summer when I was growing up, and bad enough to need medicine several times. Once, I had poison ivy (I’m guessing) on my face so bad that my eyes swelled shut. I think I can confidently say that I have as much reason to hate poison ivy as anybody on this earth.

And yet, I can’t identify it.

You’d think that I would have this burned into my brain, since it’s almost a matter of survival with me. I have been shown a million times what it looks like, and yet I couldn’t tell you what it looks like, or point to it if I saw it. I would swear to you that I have been shown different things by different people.  The only thing I can tell you is, “Leaves of three, leave it be!” So that narrows it down to about everything in the forest.

And this is just for poison ivy! What about the more exotic things, like poison oak or poison sumac? Well, here’s a little something that will blow your mind: the other day I discovered that poison ivy is the same thing as poison oak. They’re different kinds of poison ivy that grow in different parts of the U.S.

So after eyeing every plant at The Haven suspiciously, I decided to sit down and finally figure this out. Nobody has gotten poison ivy there yet, but for all I know the entire thing is infested with this terrible scourge. So here, without further ado, is an actual picture of what these things look like:

Except it’s not. Because the more you look into it, it turns out that there are hundreds and hundreds of variations on what they look like. So it turns out that everybody’s right, because each instance of the plant looks totally different from all the others. It looks like everything: it’s a shrub, it’s a vine, basically it’s just a leaf. The only thing you can depend on is that it’s green (except when it’s red). So that narrows it down.

So guess what? Even after all my research, I’m *still* never going to be able to identify it. However, my research did manage to make me even more frightened of the stuff. According to the CDC, “When exposed to 50 micrograms of urushiol [the substance produced by these plants], an amount that is less than one grain of table salt, 80 to 90 percent of adults will develop a rash. ” And this article provided me with the frightening sentence, “Using a chain saw to cut down such a tree produces flying poisonous sawdust”. Flying poisonous sawdust! Lovely.

Did I mention how allergic to this stuff I am? I’m getting itchy just writing this.


5 thoughts on “Poison Ivy – An Education

  1. Hi, I can guarantee that you will able to identify poison ivy or poison oak anytime, or determine if it is not these plants by a simple key I devised.
    Download my free pdf “The Sure-Fire Poison Oak & Poison Ivy Identification System” on my web site http://www.poisonoakandpoisonivy.com.

    Sorry, but poison oak and poison ivy are not the same plant. They are members of the genus Toxicodendron, but there are 5 species of that genus growing in the US. I also wrote a book that explains this.


    • To the lay person, two members of the genus Toxicodendron probably qualify as “the same thing”. 🙂

      Your identification sheet was indeed very helpful and better than anything that I found anywhere else on the web. Clear, concise and illustrated. Thanks for sharing!


  2. Pingback: Run in With Poison Ivy | muchadoaboutmanythings

    • I have something you can do. It is here and there on the internet, but folks don’t know how it works.

      There are two nerve networks dedicated only to itch. One is generic itch, and the other is itch caused by histamine and other chemicals. This is the network that is affected by the poison or poison ivy oil.

      Scientists have discovered that high heat will affect the nerve network (probably in the spine) and stop the itch for a while.

      When I was allergic, I would stop the itch of a head to toe case for 7 hours, and would sleep like a baby.

      A hair dryer is best. Hold the dryer close while moving it, and bring close enough to almost burn the skin. Then pull away. Be careful though. You only need a few seconds of high heat to do the job. If it is not hot enough enough, you might get some itch relief, but it wont last as long.

      You can find a longer set of directions in my book “The Poison Oak & Poison Ivy Survival Guide on Amazon.


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