Wednesday, November 30, 2011

How I Learned about Poison Ivy and Why They May Take Away My Junior Woodchuck Badge

It's been brought to my attention that I am dangerously close to missing the entire month of November here in the blogosphere.  Let me avoid that.  Why don't you pull up a chair, sit right down and let me tell you about the poison ivy and why I'm in danger of losing my Junior Woodchuck Badge.

A few years ago I spent several weeks going through the Mississippi State Master Naturalist course.  My Beloved often referred to the classes as my Junior Woodchuck classes.  In his mind I will never be a Master Naturalist but always be a Junior Woodchuck.  If you cast your mind back you may remember (and if you don't you will now know) that Huey, Dewey, and Louie, Donald Duck's young nephews belonged to the scouting organization, The Junior Woodchucks. 

Avid wikipedia researchers may even know that there was a sister organization to which Daisey's nieces belonged named The Junior Chickadees.  I'm glad the Finman didn't seem to remember that bit of trivia. 

As a child, I would have almost killed to get in the boy scouts with their campouts and hiking whereas the idea of girl scouts, cookies, and crafts could never really float my boat.  I find as an adult that I would much rather be a Woodchuck than a Chickadee.
Now, where was I?  I seem to have strayed from the point.

Oh yes, poison ivy. 

Always in the back of my mind there's been this thought, "I really should be able to identify poison ivy." 

I mean it's a bit embarrassing to have finished a class and gain a certificate and not be able to identify one of the most common nuisance plants.  Yet, every time I would sit down to try to get a handle on the whole poison ivy issue I would get bogged down with how different individual vines looked in photos or how the colors change throughout the season.

Fast forward to summer 2011 and our honeysuckle covered deck.  I noticed a new vine.  "Oh" I thought, "The last family that lived here must have planted that and I haven't noticed it before."  All summer I watched that vine grow.  It creeped over the top of the railing.  It twined its way in and out of the lattice work and its little areal roots began to take hold on anything they could latch onto.

They grew, creeped and expanded until this fall, mindful of The Finman's frustration with their overgrown state (I won't let him trim because I of course do it right and he doesn't) I started to tame the vine jungle.  How proud I was of how nicely everything looked, just lovely.

Days later when the first of the blisters began to trail along my arms and legs I thought, "I must have run into an ugly spider somewhere."  Over the next week as the reaction spread and mushroomed and itched unbearably, I was clueless as to how I'd had such an awful insect run-in.  I washed and vacuumed everything in the bedroom, pondered dread diseases, and eventually ended up at my Mother's house.

"What could this be?" I asked.  "It itches unbearably, and it's just getting worse and worse.  There are all these blisters, it's gross, there is oozing..."  She thought.  She didn't know.  We discussed other things.  Then, a light bulb flickered in her brain.  "Do you think, that it could be Poison Ivy?" she wondered.  "Poison Ivy" I countered, "I don't think so."

I went home, I considered.  I looked at pictures on the internet.  I thought, "I may actually have poison ivy".  How could I have poison ivy I wondered?  I spent a bit more time thinking.  Then, my light bulb finally if dimly flickered on, THE VINE.  The big creeping, twining vine currently living on the deck of my porch. Could it be?  It was so pretty, its leaves were turning a beautiful fall red.  It couldn't be, could it?

I took pictures and sent an email to my friend the county extension agent, a horticulturalist.  "Oh Stephanie, could you identify this for me?"  I didn't hear back.  Trying to be nonchalant I texted, "Hey did you get my email and pics?"  "Were you able to identify the photos?"  A text reply came, "Was one poison ivy?" 


I can now identify poison ivy.  Hopefully, I'll get to retain my Junior Woodchuck privileges.

This was the second vine I found.  I'd been admiring the lovely fall foliage from the window in my kitchen.  Who knew?


  1. Ouch! Remember what Fin and I told you about "better living through chemistry"? "Spraying" beats "pulling" any day. Hope you're better soon.

    It could have been worse: A friend of mine was playing golf one day and had to go to the bathroom. Being out by a bunch of trees and with no one else around, he just walked back in the forest a few feet and unzipped and did what guys do. Yep, you guessed it. Poison ivy. Guess where? ;)


  2. I know the stuff very well and teach children and adults about it without caring if they want to learn or not...

    I am damn allergic. I have a friend who is not allergic and we get him to take care of the stuff.

    The best way to scratch is to run it under almost scalding hot water...Nothing makes it feel better than that....NOTHING!!!

  3. Very close to my suggestion of very hot water & soap.


  4. One of the problems with poison Ivy is that it doesn't always look the same. Sometimes it has three leaves, sometimes five, the color and the appearance of the leaves change throughout the year. I got pretty familiar with it when I was doing lawn service and landscaping work in Indiana. I got into it a few times, but never got a bad case.

  5. I have ALWAYS said that I wish I could be in the Boy Scouts - they do such cool stuff! Girl Scouts do lame, girlish things. I love that you said the same time!


Please play nicely.