Poison ivy is one of the banes of gardening in the rich environment of Atlanta and North Georgia. Gardeners need to be able to identify and address this pesky plant in their gardens.
Identify. Poison ivy may grow as a small shrub or climbing vine. New plants can arise several feet away from the parent plant. It can also be distributed in seed form from bird droppings.
The leaves are alternately arranged in groups of three. Actual leaf color can vary in different shades of green. Leaf shape is eliptical, generally asymmetrical, and can have smooth or serrated edges.
"Leaves of Three, Let it be." Several plants have similar leaf characteristics and can be mistaken for poison ivy. Better to err on the side of caution before handling any questionable plants, such as box elder, or Virginia creeper.
Poison. All parts of the plant are poisonous all the time. However, if the leaves or stems are bruised or broken, they can transfer the toxin especially quickly. The toxin can be transferred to human skin via contact with the plant, animal coats, tools, clothing. Burning the plant can cause the toxin to be ingested through the lungs.
First Aid. If you think you've been exposed, wash the skin with cold water and soap as soon as possible. Wash suspected tools and clothing, as the toxin can be transferred to additional items, such as furniture. If a rash or allergic reaction develops, depending on your level of allergic sensitivity, consult a physician or visit the pharmacy for over-the-counter treatments.
Control. Mechanical control: Poison ivy can be controlled by repeatedly mowing or pruning down to the ground. Also, younger plants can be eliminated by tilling, or scarifying the soil. Be sure to use protective clothing, gloves, masks and goggles when working in or around poison ivy.
Chemical control: For larger plants, or larger areas of infestation, look for spray herbicides with the following chemcials: Glyphosate (e.g. Roundup), 2-4D (e.g. Spectracide, or Trimec ), or Triclopyr (e.g. Ortho Brush-B-Gone). Always read and carefully follow all label instructions.
For more info, look here for the UGA Agricultural Dept. paper.
Also, check out our Atlanta Gardening Resource Page.
Abdurrahim is the lead designer at metro-Atlanta based, award-winning Proudland Landscape, LLC.
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