This year, the East Coast is experiencing an unbelievable boom in Poison Ivy! From woodsy borders, and the sides of the highways, to backyard fences, this American native plant is spreading at an amazing rate just since the spring of this year! Working in property management, I try to keep an eye open for future problems as they occur, and to maintain a balance between the people I work for, and the natural environment. I did some research into this unusual phenomenon, and discovered that I was not the only one who had made some links between the higher levels of rain, and stable temperatures, and the spread of this plant.
Unfortunately, scientists believe they have found a link between the spread of this plant, and the change in global carbon dioxide levels occurring with Global Warming. As CO2 levels rise, this plant grows, and spreads prolifically, which is bad news for many people who come into contact with it, but good news for wildlife.
Poison Ivy is, in fact, a beneficial woodland plant. Its foliage is edible for deer and small mammals, and its fall berries are food for birds, especially those on long migration paths. Since this plant can grow quickly (even over obstacles), and it does well in newly turned soil, you are going to want to keep an eye out for it this summer around your yard.
Controlling Poison Ivy
The easiest control solution for the summer months is to spray any plants that are growing in “high traffic” areas with a Round-Up type of weed killer, to hinder its path through your yard. The oils on the plant’s leaves can protect the plant from sprays, so multiple hits with Round-Up may be required. Greener methods of removal include pulling by hand, but this is a method that works best in the fall, when the oils on the plant leaves are diminished, reducing your likelihood of a rash. And be sure to wear long sleeves and gloves just to be safe!
If you are fortunate enough to live near a field or forest area, and this plant is spreading through it, evaluate whether human traffic would warrant any interference. All native North American plants should be removed from naturalized areas only when necessary, to provide for the availability of natural food sources for local wildlife. Make sure if you have children who enjoy daily outdoor explorations, that they can identify Poison Ivy, to reduce their likelihood of walking through it, and suffering from a reaction to it.
For information on Poison Ivy, its value for wildlife, and safe removal techniques, head to The National Park Service’s Site at: http://www.nps.gov/phso/ipm/poisonivy.htm
Your thoughts: Have you had more problems with Poison Ivy? Do you think the scientists have found yet another problem caused by Global Warming? Do you have any tips for identifying it and controlling it?