Jan 05 2011
Here’s a winter weed you really need to know about!
Without its “leaves of three” poison ivy looks very different in winter but its vine, berries and roots can still give you a rash. Here are some photos and tips on how to identify it.
First and best clue: The vine looks hairy. If you see a vine like the one in this picture, don’t touch it, not even with your mitten!
Next clue: The branches are stiff, a little crooked and mostly horizontal. Sometimes the plant grows as a low shrub or as stand-alone sticks so the branches do stand up, but they still have that little crooked look.
A thriving patch of poison ivy can completely engulf a tree and when it does its branches reach out quite far. I call them “devil’s arms” because they look like they’re reaching out to get me. Look how long they are here!
Third clue: The clumps you see on those “devil’s arms” are poison ivy berries. They look like bunches of tiny white grapes, easy to see in the photo below.
Birds eat the berries throughout the winter so the clumps will slowly disappear, leaving the branches bare. It’s amazing that birds and other mammals don’t get a rash from poison ivy. Only we do.
So watch out for a hairy vine! Don’t touch those white berries! Don’t dig up the root!
Even though it’s winter you can still get a rash from this plant.
For more information on poison ivy, see this blog and its links and comments.
(photos by Marcy Cunkelman)