My Weekend With Nick
Soak Up the Sun

Leaves of Three. . .

Let it be!


Most of you probably are familiar with this garden scourge . . . but some of you might not be.  This, my friends, is poison ivy.*

Ugh. I hates the poison ivy.  And, unfortunately, I find it in my garden all the time.  I went on a fairly extensive "search and destroy" mission over the weekend - with good success.  (And by that, I mean no rash.)

Inspired by my gardening mission, and being a creature of habit, I decided to bring you my own** Ten on Tuesday today - Ten Facts/Stories About Poison Ivy:  

  1. Poison ivy only causes an allergic reaction in humans.  (This is why my dogs can run around and then poop right in it and never have a problem.)
  2. Urushiol (the oily organic allergen in poison ivy) is what causes the nasty, itchy skin rash when you touch the plant.  (When I showed Tom the chemical structure for the usushiol compound, he said, "Oh, it's a catechol."  Apparently also an ortho-hydroquinone.)  (See how it is here?)
  3. According to this website, most people get the rash from touching leaves while gardening, hiking, or looking for a ball lost in the weeds.
  4. Tom can attest to this.  Once, when he was coaching Erin's soccer team, he kept retrieving out-of-bounds soccer balls in the weeds.  A couple of days later, we discovered "the weeds" were thick with poison ivy.  He was miserable for days and days.  (It is one of the only times in his work-life that he has had to take sick days.)  (Because it's hard to go to work when you can't put on pants.)
  5. Brian would add that shooting-your-BB-gun-in-the-woods-up-north-with-your-friends can also lead to contact with poison ivy.  (Spring in his sixth grade year was really miserable.)
  6. I am really careful when gardening.  In certain areas of my garden, I always wear my garden shoes (yeah, most times I garden in flip-flops. . . ) and gardening gloves, and I poke around a lot before I do any heavy-duty weeding.  When I find poison ivy, I carefully dig it out and move on.  When I'm finished gardening, I jump in the shower and scrub.  (So far, so good.) (Although at any Master Gardener gathering I've ever been to during the summer months, there will be someone in attendance with an incredibly nasty poison ivy rash.)  (Because we all think it will never happen to us.)
  7. I think I've been pretty lucky, because according this website, urushiol can stay potent (on objects) for up to 5 years.  (I probably shouldn't touch my garden trowel with my bare hands for awhile after this last weekend.)
  8. It takes direct contact with urushiol to cause a poison ivy skin reaction.  That means . . . if you touch someone with a poison ivy rash, you will not get it yourself.  You only spread the rash if you have the urushiol on you . . . and then you touch someone else.
  9. You can get a skin reaction, though, if you touch SOMETHING that has touched poison ivy.  Garden tools, for example.  Or dogs.  Or your shoes.  (So be careful.)
  10. Do NOT try to eradicate poison ivy with a lawn mower or a weed wacker, or by burning it.  Because then . . . the urushiol will be airborne.  (And then you'll really have trouble.)  (I've heard horror stories.)

My advice:  Keep a close eye out for those leaves of three.  (And don't go chasing soccer balls.)


* Although this post is focusing on poison ivy, there is another garden scourge in today's photo . . . bindweed.  Not poisonous.  But really awful all the same.  (Despite it's sweet little morning glory-like blooms.)

** Carole is off on vacation for the next couple of weeks, so no "official" Ten on Tuesday posts until September.


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I had it every year of my life between 6 and 16 but not once again since. Dan and Doug have never had it. Fingers crossed! Thanks for the science lesson today Kym! :-)


My son had it last summer - retrieved soccer ball - and it was nasty.

Here is one more fun fact for you: we have Orange Spotted Jewelweed growing in the woods behind our house. It can be used as a natural remedy for poison ivy rash and the two plants often grow side by side. Almost as a warning.

This year we also have the fun of Wild Parsnip throughout the fields in our area. It' snot fun either.

Thanks for the Top Ten. I would have missed reading it this week.


Interesting! I've had it every year of my life, and can attest to the terrible truthfulness of #10. After minimal contact with smoke from a pile of burning poison ivy, I spent the next two weeks in the hospital on steroids when I was in 2nd grade. Fels-Naptha soap is good for removing urushiol from hands, shoes, and tools. Be careful out there!

Cheryl S.

We don't have a big poison ivy problem here, at least not in gardens, but there is some around in the canyons. I recently saw this article/video on preventing the rash - maybe you'd find it helpful:


The Fels Naptha tip is one I learned in h.s., when we moved to northern MN and found that our yard was surrounded by poison ivy. Supposedly, Fels is the only soap that doesn't absorb some of the urushiol into the bar and spread it around on the bather's skin. My mom used to have to get out of the yard, either by digging, like you, or with carefully applied RoundUp.

I don't know why, but I have never observed poison ivy anywhere on our property or around our lake, even though I see it in the ditches not far away. ::knock on wood::


I am knocking on wood... so far, I've never seen it in my garden/yard! Here's to your continued good luck!!


Flying poison ivy-- yikes! It seems that if you live anywhere.near poison ivy, you're in trouble.

mary mcmahon

OK, here is the craziest Poison ivy story that I know to be true. A friend from Nantucket came to visit me in Feb and she had a nasty case of poison ivy on her rear end....from peeing outside on a log in the wintertime when she was ice skating w/ a group of friends!! Mary in Cincinnati


thank you for the PSA - that was very informative! I've never had poison ivy - one of the benefits of no garden :-) but my sister usually has it at least once a year. I'm glad to know it's not contagious...not that I'd choose to touch - it looks nasty!


I'm so very grateful to have never run into the nasty stuff. I've spotted it sitting off the trail waiting for the unwary but I've run the other way! Thanks for all the great info, as I'll be even more wary!

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