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Leaves of Three, Let it Be!


Recognizing and Removing Poison Ivy

Poison Ivy
Poison Ivy causes an itchy skin rash.

Wild vines are at home in the dappled shade of your woods and lawn areas. It is not uncommon for the suburban homeowner to find long chains of serrated leaves snaking out of the woods and across the lawn. Careful identification of the culprit vine is the first step in the removal process, and could prevent an itchy case of poison ivy rash.

In the mid-Atlantic states, several creeping vines are easily confused with poison ivy, including blackberry, wild strawberry and Virginia Creeper.

The first step in distinguishing poison ivy is to recall the old saying: Leaves of three - let it be! Poison ivy displays its saw-toothed leaflets in groups of three. Virginia Creeper, which otherwise looks remarkably similar to poison ivy, grows its leaves in groups of five.

Blackberry has serrated leaves grouped in threes, but blackberry grows as a tall shoot, not as a vine. Blackberry also has thorns on its stems, and in season, black berries.

Wild Strawberry also displays serrated leaves in groups of three. However, wild strawberry grows very close to the ground, while poison ivy holds its leaves 3-10 inches off the ground. Also, wild strawberry leaves are rounder and darker green than poison ivy leaves.

Okay, so you identify poison ivy growing in your yard - how do you get rid of it? The usual mechanical methods of weed removal - clipping, chopping, string trimming, pulling-up and burning - are a disaster when it comes to poison ivy. Poison ivy, and its cousins poison oak and poison sumac, have evolved a chemical on their leaf and stem surfaces, meant to keep away insects. Upon contact with human skin, the plant's defensive chemical will produce an itchy red rash, with bumps and pustules, which is easily spread by scratching. Some people experience a strong allergic reaction to poison ivy, with extreme swelling, hives, and difficulty breathing, leading to a swift emergency room visit. Thus, you will want to avoid removal methods that will involve skin contact, and to especially avoid the string trimmer, which launches the leaves, stems and poison chemical into the air.

So how do you get rid of poison ivy, without the risk? Go to your local Southern States dealer and pick up some Poison Ivy/Oak Killer by Bonide in the 1 quart size and some coated waterproof garden gloves.

Creeping vines can provide a nice green transition zone from suburban lawn to shady woods. Ground cover prevents erosion and provides shelter for birds and small mammals. Just be careful that your plants do not expend their chemical defenses on your skin, your children or your pets. Teach your children the timeless adage: "Leaves of three - let it be!"


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