Poison Ivy ( Toxicodendron radicans) Informative

  • Description:
    • radicans is a deciduous, herbaceous vine that is able to grow as ground cover, a shrub, or up trees.
    • As ground cover, the vine will creep throughout clearings in the forest and only grow about 4 to 10 inches in height.
    • As a shrub, the vine can grow about 3 to 5 feet tall.
    • When the vine grows on trees as support it produces adventitious roots from the vine that look like hairs growing out of the main vine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Distribution:
    • radicans is found throughout eastern United States and is native to this area.
    • The plant prefers shaded areas making it more common in forests rather than prairies and wetlands, but can still be found there.
    • radicans growth is directionally proportional to carbon dioxide levels. The higher the concentration the more growth.
  • Identification:
    • Clusters of three leaflets
    • Alternate leaf arrangement
    • Lack of thorns
    • The middle leaflet has the longest petiole
    • White flowers and white berries
    • Leaf shape may vary greatly, but will always be in three leaflets
      • “Leaflets of three, let it be”
      • “Hairy vine, no friend of mine”
      • “Berries white, danger in sight”
  • Effects on body:
    • radicans produces an oily organic compound Urushiol that causes a rash on the skin when it is absorbed.
    • The leaves must be damaged for the oil to transfer from the plant to your skin.
    • The rash appears anywhere the oil has touched the skin before the rash is visible. Once the rash has appeared it cannot be spread anymore.
  • Treatment:
    • After contact, immediately washing with soap and cold water or rubbing alcohol may prevent a reaction. Avoid hot water because this aids in absorption of the oil.
    • Jewelweed/Touch-me-nots, Impatiens capensis, may be used as a natural treatment and is often found near radicans. To use, crush a few leaves of I. capensis to produce an oil and rub where the Urushiol came into contact on the skin.
    • Once the rash has appeared, calamine lotion or diphenhydramine may help mitigate symptoms.
  • Mimics:
    • Virginia creeper, Parthenocissus quinquefolia
    • Blackberries and raspberries, Rubus
    • Fragrant sumac, Rhus aromatic
    • Riverbank grape vine, Vitis riparia
  • Importance:
    • radicans is an importance food source for wildlife. Leaves and stems are commonly eaten by deer, raccoons and muskrats. The berries provide nutrition for wild turkeys, robins, crows and bluebirds. Even frogs benefit from T. radicans and use the plant as a source of shelter.
    • It is native to our region and we want to keep it here.
  • Unknown Facts about radicans:
    • The oil Urushiol can remain active for several years – upwards of 5 (wash anything that touched poison ivy before using again)
    • If the plant is burned and the smoke is inhaled, the rash will appear on the lining of the lungs causing extreme pain and may be fatal
    • People with severe sensitivity to radicans may experience a similar rash from mangoes because they are in the same family