Monday, May 13, 2013

Virtues of Poison Ivy?

Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans)

This is a picture of poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) or it is also called poison oak where I live. It’s not really an ivy or an oak, so I think it should be called, “annoying vine-shrub-thing that causes an itchy rash to appear on skin when touched.” Poison ivy is especially potent this time of year. It isn’t hard to identify at this time because many of the leaves have a red-brown color and are glossy, but as the plant matures the leaves turn to a lighter green without any glossiness which makes them less noticeable. A good thing to do if you have been in a patch of Toxicodendron radicans (I like the name) is to take a cold shower. There is also a common belief that crushed leaves from jewelweed (touch-me-nots) will act as an anti-inflammatory after exposure to poison ivy. Never burn the plant, even if it is dead, because inhaling the smoke can be fatal.  

The best advice I can give about poison ivy is to know what it looks like in the first place and avoid it as much as possible.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Benjamin Franklin

I love reading John Muir’s writings, but he’s a little over my head when he writes about the good points found in poison ivy. 

Here is the excerpt from “Nature Writings”:

Poison oak or poison ivy (Rhus diversiloba), both as a bush and a scrambler up trees and rocks, is common throughout the foothill region up to a height of at least three thousand feet above the sea. It is somewhat troublesome to most travelers, inflaming the skin and eyes, but blends harmoniously with its companion plants, and many a charming flower leans confidingly upon it for protection and shade. I have oftentimes found the curious twining lily (Stropholirion Californicum) climbing its branches, showing no fear but rather congenial companionship. Sheep eat it without apparent ill effects; so do horses to some extent, though not fond of it, and to many persons it is harmless. Like most other things not apparently useful to man, it has few friends, and the blind question, “Why was it made?” goes on and on with never a guess that first of all it might have been made for itself.

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