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Poison Ivy Is Thriving Due To Global Warming

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It’s that time of the year again. Poison ivy is growing rampant in many sections of the country, probably no matter in what part of which country you may reside in North America. It grows in the woods and in cities, as well. No matter if it’s chopped away one season, it’s a bet that it will return the next. If only houseplants were as strong-willed as poison ivy, we’d all have green thumbs!

Recent news reports have stated that global warming is producing a super-strain of poison ivy. In global warming, the carbon dioxide levels are increased and that’s causing the itch-producing substance in poison ivy — urushiol or commonly misspelt "urushol" — to grow even stronger and more toxic.

Urushiol is found within all parts of poison ivy, from leaves to roots. Even if you haven’t had an allergic reaction to the plant in the past, it’s wise to stick to the old adage of “leaflets three, let them be.”

Poison ivy in Bridgewater, New JerseyI like to photograph poison ivy and have never had an allergic reaction, but even I’m leery with these latest reports. Over the past few years, I’ve found many folks aren’t familiar with what poison ivy actually looks like, so I’ve been spreading the news with images. It’s an attractive plant, but you’ve been warned!

If you’re exposed to the plant, immediately wash the affected area; that‘s most effective if done within 30 minutes of contact. A product such as an alcohol-based hand sanitizer is recommended. If you touched the plant, that alone can often bring about a reaction as the urushiol oozes from any damaged areas of it, so be careful not to touch your face, eyes, or anywhere else before a complete scrub-down of your hands. If you’ve walked through poison ivy, launder any clothing thoroughly with hot water and soap. An alcohol rubdown of shoes should rid them of the toxin.

The symptoms of an allergic reaction to poison ivy usually won’t show until a few days after contact. Those symptoms include:

  • Extreme itching along with a red rash.
  • Streaks or patches where the plant touched the skin.
  • Rash includes red bumps and often large, weeping blisters.
  • Reactions can vary from mild to severe. Extreme cases may require hospitalization.

The worst stage of the reaction is usually the end of the first week after exposure. The reaction can last up to three weeks. Once a rash develops, over-the-counter calamine lotion and hydrocortisone creams may bring some relief. If the reaction is severe, seek medical assistance.

If you’re trying to remove poison ivy from your property, cover exposed skin despite the weather. I’d recommend gardening gloves in addition to long-sleeve shirts and full-length pants. Don’t ever burn the plant in an effort to destroy it as urushiol can be breathed in from the smoke and could possibly create a worse reaction.

This is indeed a case where abstinence is the best policy, remember the “leaflets three.”

About Jackie

  • Dave Nalle

    Interesting. Your poison ivy looks very little like what grows here in Texas. And over the last few years I’ve noticed that ours has been less active rather than more active. I wonder if our strain is less tolerant of heat and dry conditions than other varieties.

    What we have here is Eastern Poison Ivy. It matches what’s in most photos of poison ivy I’ve seen, while your pictures are quite different. Your picture actually looks a lot like Poison Sumac.

    As for the CO2 studies with Poison Ivy, they used a very high concentration of CO2, enormously more than any increase in the atmosphere. Currently we’re adding about 3ppm of C02 to the atmosphere each year. At that rate, by the end of the century the CO2 concentration will have increased by 3/100ths of 1%. or .03%. One major volcanic eruption would produce more C02 than that in a matter of days. Mt. St. Helens is active but not errupting and produces 1/15th of the total human industrial output of CO2 each year.


  • Jackie

    Oh, it’s most definitely poison ivy, Dave. There is also poison sumac growing in the same area and I believe it’s also affected by global warming. Different variations of the plant are evident through the area, so it wouldn’t surprise me if Texas poison ivy differs some in appearance than that here in NJ. The leaves in the photo with the red color are new ones, they’ll grow out to be a full green such as the ones in the background of the shot.

  • Dave Nalle

    Do the leaves develop a sort of thumb on the side when they get older? That’s characteristic of all the poison ivy I’ve ever seen here and elsewhere. It’s hard to tell if the ones in the background have it. Our poison ivy is also sort of furry around the edges of the leaves and especially on the stalks.


  • Jackie

    Dave – Usually I’d say to the “thumb” if I’m visualizing that right in my mind. A bit like a mitten in appearance?

    The vines are outright hairy more than furry. While the newly sprouted leaves I highlight in the photo may look a bit like sumac in color, the latter isn’t really a three-leaf plant. With sumac, the leaves sprout from either side of the main…um…twigs (whatever). They are also much longer and thinner in comparison.

    These leaves aren’t this size or color for long in poison ivy. I just like to catch them in this stage with my camera. I pass the area daily (commuter train station near my workplace) and could shoot just the full-grown leaves, but they’re boring! ;-)

  • Dave Nalle

    It’s not boring if they get you – at least not if you’re as sensitive as I am.

    I’ll have to keep an eye out for some new sprouted leaves on ours and see what they look like.


  • Joey

    This just in:

    THC caused the Cannibas Sativa plant to thrive.

    How? Because when animals eat it, they are poisoned and never touch it again.

    Ironically, humans interpret the poisoning as a pleasurable experience. I wonder if someone going into insulin shock or Hyperglycemic shock… feels like that’s a high, after all it is your body reacting to another chemical imbalance. I know I feel like crap when I don’t eat correctly, but I don’t interpret that as a buzz… just a crappy feeling.

    The same goes for alcohol consumption. You are actually poisoning your system and it’s your system’s reaction to the poisoning that makes you feel the way you do.

    Is that good? Probably not.

    Do you care? You will years later when the good doctor delivers the devistating news that you have worn your system out and need parts, or a funeral director.

    BTW… Thinking logically, along these same lines… Poison Ivy has been in constantly thriving since the end of the last Ice Age… as we have been undergoing global warming ever since.

    Okay… climbing off of the soapbox now. Thanks for listening. Gotta go tow some petroleum burners.