Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Pretty poison

Poison Ivy flowers
Toxicodendron radicans

I like the former Latin name Rhus toxicodendron better, because there was always the possibility of referring to urushiol - the oil in Poison Ivy that makes you itch - as Rhus juice.*

This FDA site on Poison Ivy isn't bad, but it should really emphasize the fact that many suburban yards are full of Poison Ivy roots, as my sister rediscovers every spring. Poison Ivy: not just in the woods!

Plus, the more you are exposed to it, the more sensitized you seem to become. (Soon my poor sister will break out just thinking about the plant.)

And any site on Poison Ivy should point out that you should never, ever, ever burn it. Tiny urushiol oil droplets are carried in the smoke, and as much as you don't want that smoke blanketing your skin, you really don't want it slithering into your lungs.


*Most people use that term for the "lemonade" made from Staghorn Sumac, I know, but it's not nearly as funny.


Mark said...

When I lived near Gurley, Al, there was so much poison ivy on the slopes of Keel Mountain behind my house that I thought surely it must be the center of all poison ivy, the portal of hell from which poison ivy enters the world.

I strongly confirm the warning never to burn poison ivy. One winter my father took my brother and me (little kids) on a trek down the railroad tracks, where we often roamed. We built a fire to warm ourselves. You know what happened next. I didn't get it in my lungs, but I did get it all over my face. Not pleasant.

Annie in Austin said...

Hi Rurality,

Although I still bear the scars from poison ivy, your photo of the flowers shows me something totally new and almost attractive. You could almost imagine the little buds made into silk flowers as an accent on a door wreath.

My sympathy to your sister on her sensitivity, and I agree that the site should mention the roots in suburban yards.

For a Divas of the Dirt project, I dug out grass for a new bed - discovering later that while the top of the plant grew on the other side of a board fence, I was kneeling in the smushed roots - in their "Rhus juice".

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Cathy said...

Yesterday I took my hubby by the hand and tried to help him distinguish the poison ivy from trillium and Virginia Creeper.

That business about burning it is so creepy. It happened to my sister-in-law and her mother. The were very ill.

I'm always amazed that the local metroparks don't post more signs warning people and pets who may come in contact with it as it grows thickly beside many hiking trails.

DeeMom said...

There is a FOLK remedy for Posion Ivy called Jewell Weed.
The juice of the plant has been used for centuries to relieve the irritation and itch of poison ivy, oak or sumac.


Ontario Wanderer said...

Neat photo. I am always a bit nervous getting that close to the ivy but then sometimes it gets close to me when I am not watching. The vine that grows on some of our trees is really easy to not see at times when one is walking looking down for flowers.

Ki said...

Very lovely photo of poison ivy flowers. If I remember correctly, the ones I've seen look rather sickly and unattractive. I didn't know it was in the same family as sumac. I've seemingly forever heard of poison sumac but didn't make the connection.

We lived temporarily in a 2 apartment house. The woman upstairs was a witch who accused our then 6 year old child of stealing her jewelry. How our kid could even get into her apartment was not even considered. Even called the police who questioned us about the theft as she claimed only a very small person could somehow get in through the partially jammed door.

Anyway she was in a huff about us not cleaning the bank of ivy on the slope in front of the house. Having lived in the NE for approx. 60 years you would think she would recognize poison ivy and maybe the reason the bank was not cleaned was because I didn't want to mess with the stuff, especially since it was a rental apt. Well, she decided enough was enough and set about cleaning "all the weeds". Saw her a week later, arms bandaged and she yelled at me, saying "why didn't you tell me it was poison ivy!" My reply was,"I thought you knew...you know, leaves of three let them be". I felt a little sorry for her and ashamed of myself for being small and mean spirited but that was a nasty woman. Anyway several weeks later she was back to being her normal nasty self but I never saw her 'gardening' any more.

meresy_g said...

Pretyy little flowers. And a valuable plant for wildlife. I leave it go in our little woodlot, but I don't want it in my flowerbeds. I'm not sure about becoming more sensitive to it the more you are exposed to it. I'm exposed to it a lot and I've never noticed an increase in sensitivity. But I have developed a keen sense for it. I can spot it a mile away, in winter or deep summer, in all of it's sneaky forms. Lately I've noticed it growing up through perennial plants that look similar, as if intentionally camoflaging itself. Sneaky, sneaky plant.

Autumn Zephyr said...

Hi! I'm a rural north Alabama crafter with a home based business of my own! I 'm excited to find you! My husband even works in Blount County, so we are practically neighbors.

Floridacracker said...

Pretty flowers.
Like typhoid mary with make-up on.

lisa said...

Kinda pretty, but VERY nasty! I absolutely get more sensitive to it as time goes on, which pisses me off big time cuz' I get it by looking at it! I can attest to the relief that jewelweed brings...aside from the flowers that hummingbirds like, I mostly grow it for myself as poison ivy defense!

KFarmer said...

I had a bad case when I was in 4th grade and have not had a bout of it since- and I pull it up with my bare hands. Dang, now I've jixed myself! :0

Anonymous said...

Well, you had me with the pictures of the trees and roots and streams, and then I found the ducks! I love ducks. We had a herd - er, flock - of them in San Diego - Muscovies, Pekings and Mallards. Now I content myself with wooden ones around the house.
I grew up in middle Tennessee, God's country, and was last in Alabama visiting my daughter in Montgomery a few years ago.
Nice meeting you.

Rurality said...

Mark, you are lucky you didn't breathe it in... and I think the poison ivy portal is in Oneonta now.

Annie, I think this was the prettiest I've ever seen the blooms. They are usually beneath the leaves so they're not too noticeable.

Cathy it's funny, I can remember when I didn't know much about plants... people kept pointing out poison ivy to me but I just couldn't distinguish it from anything else, for some reason. (Same thing when I first started watching birds - it was so hard to tell one from the other.)

Deemom, I had heaerd that before. People keep asking me if I make a jewelweed soap for poison ivy, but I've never found an extract for sale and I think it would take a lot of actual plant for it to work in soap.

OW, yep, but I think Jasmine (the dog) gives it to me more than me giving it to myself!

Ki, ooh, a plant of (almost) instant Karma! :)

Meredith, it's ALL through the woods here. It's why I don't go in the woods much after May. That, and the snakes hiding under it. :) The increased sensitivity is just from personal observations, nothing scientific.

Hi Autumn Z! Nice to see someone else local!

FC, I think I like the fall colors even better.

Lisa, I need to plant some here I guess. I never see it for sale though - guess I'd need to order it.

KF, never heard of anything like that before. No chance it was anything else? I did read that 15 - 20% of the population is immune to the effects.

Hi Jenny, glad you dropped by! I need to get another picture of the baby duck - he is SO cute and growing fast.

lisa said...

If you like, I can absolutely send you some jewelweed seeds at the end of this season. It reseeds so well, once you get it going, you will ALWAYS have it! I'm not sure if it would work in a soap, but my sister made a tincture one year, and that worked. Email me at lisadmi@cmhome.org if you'd like some seeds and include your addy :)