My co-worker and friend Pete Zapadka is a plant lover and outdoorsman. He spends lots of time in the woods and has a warning for everyone about poison ivy.
-By Pete Zapadka
Despite the suffering it causes each year for so many people, the power of poison ivy is underestimated.
A lot of gardeners and outdoorsmen ignore it, too often saying, "I'm immune; I don't get poison ivy."
Well, yes, you do. Maybe you haven't got the itch yet, but you will. Its toxin is one of those that the more you come in contact with it, the more likely you are to become affected.
But poison ivy particularly is dangerous at the time of year.
Because in early spring, the signature three leaves have yet to appear, making the plant difficult to identify. Yet it's toxic juices have begun to flow.
I've been wandering through Penn's Woods for nearly six decades, and painful experience gained over the years has taught me the ability to identify poison ivy in all four seasons. There is not much in this world I hate, but yes, I do hate poison ivy. So I've come to know it quite well.
While its noticeable white berries hang on the plant from summer, fall and all winter long, providing food for birds who seem to be immune to the toxin, there is one clear telltale sign to look for at this time of year:
A furry, or hairy, vine.
The photo was taken by a co-worker last year who asked me how she'd gotten poison ivy (and quite badly, too), while clearing her garden very early in the year. I had asked her to return to her garden, take some photos and bring them in for me to see.
When I saw the vine, I knew. There it was, snaking along the fence post.
The message: Gardeners, let's be careful out there! And please forgive me for offering my little update from that old saying, but I'm hoping it will help a lot of people avoid that terrible itch:
"Leaflets three, you may not see ... but a furry vine, just let it be!"
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