Friday, May 1, 2015

Leaves of Three...Poison Ivy in the Landscape

Poison ivy             PHOTO/Amy W.
Greenery is popping up all over our landscapes, and, for anyone who has ever developed a blistery rash following a day of work in the yard, some of that greenery may look like bad news.

One common cause of such a rash is poison ivy, which spreads underground and through seeds that are dropped by birds and small animals that have eaten the berries.

For people who are unsure how to identify poison ivy and are counting numbers-of-leaves to determine which plants to pull or spray, it may be best to take or email a photo of any suspicious plant to your local Extension office for identification.

Hickory seedling       PHOTO/Amy W.
UGA Specialist Mark Czarnota,  in the UGA publication "Controlling poison ivy in the landscape," explains that the old rhyme, "leaves of three, let it be" will help keep the wary from touching the toxic plant, but it is not 100% reliable as way to identify poison ivy.

Czarnota also dispels some misconceptions about the plant by saying that poison ivy "may grow as a small shrub or as a high climbing vine" and that  leaf edges may "have either smooth, toothed, or lobed margins."

Kudzu                    PHOTO/Amy W.
As he also notes, many plants have leaves arranged in threes, and some look remarkably similar to poison ivy in their early stages of growth. In addition, some of those lookalikes may turn out to be plants you'd like to keep!

After an exact identification has been made, controlling the poison ivy is the next step.

For poison ivy that pops up in lawns or other mowed areas, Czarnota explains that simply keeping it mowed will eventually eradicate the vines.

Trillium                 PHOTO/Amy W.
For patches that appear in un-mowed areas, "digging, or 'grubbing out' poison ivy plants and roots can be used as a control method..."

When herbicides are needed to control a larger vine or patch, follow instructions outlined in Czarnota's publication (linked near the top of this blog post).

The publication describes three chemical options, the situations in which to use each, and how to achieve the best success while not injuring nearby plants.

Virginia creeper     PHOTO/Amy W.

The GA Faces article "Cut and spray to control tough, weedy vines like poison ivy and greenbrier", by UGA Extension's Paul Pugleise, provides additional information about controlling poison ivy in the landscape.