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  • Last modified 27 days ago (Sept. 1, 2021)

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Poison ivy becoming a touchy subject in county

Staff writer

Recent rain and sunshine that boost area crops and gardens will help pest plants like poison ivy thrive, too.

Birds typically spread the plants in their droppings after eating berries that sprout in late summer local garden expert Pam Byer said.

“In Marion County, it grows everywhere,” Byer said laughing. “Mowing usually deters it in yards, but not on the fringes of lawns, and that’s where I see it.”

The plant has sprouted around a walking trail near Central Park in recent years.

Extension agent Rickey Roberts said poison ivy tended to favor shaded woodland with damp soil just like the trail.

“I go to 4-H camp in Rock Springs every year, and there are trees and forest everywhere,” he said. “That place is just loaded with poison ivy.”

Learning how to spot poison ivy is critical because it can be mistaken for other plants, Byer said.

It has “leaves of three” but also may grow as a vine.

Many mistake the plant for a grapevine, but vines of a poison ivy plant are covered with hairy roots that attach it to a tree, she said.

“If a vine is fuzzy or hairy-looking don’t touch it,” Byer said. “Once you see it, it’s easy to recognize.”

Poison ivy is considered a problem weed rather than a noxious one because it doesn’t damage property, according to the Kansas Department of Agriculture.

An irritant called urushiol present in the plant’s sap is the culprit that causes red, itchy bumps and blisters that leak fluid.

Landowners have been poisoned by the plant when clearing brush with a powered weed-whip or lawnmower.

Burning wood or brush piles that contain poison ivy also can release urushiol into the air and irritate lungs.

“There are people who have cut firewood and not noticed the plant or think the vine’s dead,” Byer said. “That can lead to serious trouble.”

Byer treats poison ivy promptly with an herbicide like Roundup whenever she spots it.

Plants also can be pulled up and immediately disposed of as long as gloves and protective clothing are worn, she said.

Susan Mayo, owner of a farmstead near Peabody, has another solution. She has her goats eat the plant.

It is not poisonous to the animals, that gladly graze on it.

She still has to mow to control spread but the goats help keep the plant down around new trees.

“I’ve come to the conclusion the best way to get rid of it is just pull it up,” she said. “That’s our project for the next 10 years.”

A painful rash can be avoided if a plant is accidentally touched.

Washing immediately with rubbing alcohol, laundry detergent, or dish soap can help, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.

The rash can be treated with calamine lotion and cool compresses. Taking an antihistamine can reduce itching.

Some people are highly sensitive to poison ivy while others escape burning and itching, Roberts said.

He counts himself among the lucky ones who have been exposed to the plant with minimal ill effects — and he is glad.

“Some people look at the stuff and they break out,” he said.

Last modified Sept. 1, 2021

 

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