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Poison Ivy Getting Stronger? Scientists Say Yes

A warming environment may be making the effects of poison ivy worse than ever.

A warming environment may be making the effects of poison ivy worse than ever.

Loads of casual observers have noted that poison ivy plants seem to be getting larger and the effects of the toxic oils are seemingly more powerful. An article published yesterday in the World Sentinel confirms those fears:
http://www.worldsentinel.com/articles/view/151841.

That means that do-it-yourself homeowners may be more at risk than ever before — and in more of a panic to be rid of the woody vines. As always, we caution against the use of toxic pesticides such as glyphosate or 2,4-D.

Before we review some removal techniques, however, it’s probably useful to offer up a natural solution to soothe those nasty rashes. My friend, Harold Brown, here in Maine sells Nature’s Poison Ivy Cure by mailorder: http://www.naturespoisonivycure.com/. It’s a product as old-fashioned as nature itself and perfectly safe to use for you and your children.

As for control, this is a good time of the year to take action while the plants are actively growing and flowering. Here’s are a few techniques:

PULLING — Extracting the plants with rubber gloves is temporarily effective but the plants roots will regrow unless you do something to change the soil conditions. A heavy dose of limestone and overseeding with grass seed or another groundcover is a good strategy to employ after pulling. Remember that it’s easiest to pull the plants when the soil is soggy.

BURNING BEWARE — It’s tempting to try to burn out a large area of poison ivy, but I’ve seen seriously nasty respiratory and eye problems as a result. Anyone in the vicinity of the smoke can be affected, so it’s best to avoid this technique.

MOWING — If you’re persistent, then mowing the plant can eventually kill poison ivy. A mowing strategy, however, should be combined with altering the acidic soil conditions that are making the poison ivy thrive. Using a bag attachment and then discarding the leaves in the compost pile is recommended. Otherwise, rake the cut leaves and dispose of them. The dried leaves left on the ground can still cause rashes for the remainder of the season.

SUFFOCATION — My favorite technique for removing any invasive weed involves covering the area with rubber roofing underlayment or flexible pond liner. These rubberized materials will trap the soil’s own gases and suffocate the plants. The black rubber also gathers the sun’s heat, making this a dual-action weed killer. One sheet will last at least 20 years and can be used over and over.

SPRAYS — Products such a Roundup that include glyphosate have been the primary poison ivy control for the past several decades, but we now know that Roundup is acutely toxic — even more so than the oils from the poison ivy. Numerous natural or organic products will kill back the plants, although multiple applications may be necessary for full-grown plants. I could recommend several, but here is one from one of our newest supporters: 1) Black Jack, an eco-exempt product sold by San Jacinto Environmental Supplies of Houston, Texas: http://www.sanjacorganic.com/Horticultural/WeedControl/herbi.htm; and

Another organic method involves spraying the plant with salt water. A ratio of one cup salt to a gallon of water with a few drops of liquid soap added to help the mixture adhere to the plant.

IDENTIFICATION — For folks who aren’t quite sure if they have poison ivy in their yards or woods, here’s a link to a good on-line gallery: http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://z.about.com/d/landscaping/1/0/P/A/leaflets_three_poison_ivy.jpg&imgrefurl=http://landscaping.about.com/od/galleryoflandscapephotos/ig/Pictures-of-Poison-Ivy/Leaflets-Three-Rhyme.htm&usg=__rY4olhi4KUqoie5gXZRDxjq-pNA=&h=400&w=400&sz=128&hl=en&start=67&um=1&itbs=1&tbnid=HD1_zhVLBtxxZM:&tbnh=124&tbnw=124&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dpoison%2Bivy%26start%3D60%26um%3D1%26hl%3Den%26client%3Dsafari%26sa%3DN%26rls%3Den%26ndsp%3D20%26tbs%3Disch:1. Remember the old adage: “Shiny green leaves of three, let them be.”

About The Author

Paul Tukey

An international leader of the green movement, Mr. Tukey is a journalist, author, filmmaker, TV host, activist and award-winning public speaker, who is widely recognized as North America's leading advocate for landscape sustainability and toxic pesticide reduction strategies.

Number of Entries : 1024
  • Ruth B

    Has anyone had the vaccine for poison ivy allergy? My family doctor told me several years ago that some people developed a more severe allergic reaction after getting the vaccine (not sure how much more I can be allergic) – I just wondered if anyone has experience with it.

  • nancy p

    to naturally get rid of a case of poison ivy the cheapest and easiest method is so easy

    take a soppy warm washcloth and pour table salt into it squeeze the water thru and then scrub the affected area very well scratching it open and it doesnt hurt as it sounds it actually feels very good there will be a very slight sting hardly at all then air dry the affected area leaving the salty granules on the skin they will fall off naturally do this procedure as needed when itching begins and repeat for three days the third day apply a nice organic skin oil to soften the affected area less than a dollar and it works and no chemicals are involved nor doctor costs

  • nancy p

    the salt remedy was from my grandfather and it is tried and true im terribly allergic to poison ivy and a landscaper

  • lyle

    the image above shows a poison ivy plant (leaves of 3) and what appears to be a virginia creeper plant. it is ironic that a website intended to educate readers on poison ivy would post an image that confuses readers

  • lyle

    the image above shows a poison ivy plant (leaves of 3) and what appears to be a virginia creeper plant. it is ironic that a website intended to educate readers on poison ivy would post an image that confuses readers

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