Friday, August 27, 2010

Poison Ivy

I was out to dinner with friends the other day and the topic turned to Poison Ivy. It turned out that neither of the other guys at the table, both of whom spend a fair amount of time in the bush whether hiking or cottaging, were confident in identifying Poison Ivy. It got me thinking that my upbringing with a father who was a botanist gave me an advantage over many who venture out into the woods. Since the whole purpose of this blog is to encourage others to get out there, I guess it is my duty to attempt to educate a few about poison ivy. Besides, it was a kick in the proverbial "behind" to do some posting.
Poison Ivy can be just about anywhere in Ontario, so if you are out there it is wise to know what it looks like and to avoid it. Having said that it can take on a variety of forms. I have seen it as a vine covering tree trunks 30 ft high, as a low shrubby plant and its most common variant as a ground cover. The following photos were all taken Aug 27 at the Orono Crown Lands, some along an abandoned railway line and others in a old white pine plantation.
The old adage about 'three shiny leaves, let me be' is a start. However there are literally hundreds of three leaved plants out there so it really doesn't narrow it down much. These photos are in dry habitat so the plants and leaves are rather small. It can be much larger than these examples. Having said that, it is the small inconspicuous ones that will get you in trouble.

Typical dry area Poison Ivy.

Fall is coming and the leaves of this Poison Ivy are starting to turn red.

Leaves and berries.

A closer look at the berries.

My boot for scale. Only the two largest sets of three leaves in this photo are poison ivy

A couple of more examples.

I hope this will get you started with ID ing this plant before it gets you. Take a look at some field guides or do more research on the web. It is worth knowing how to spot it and avoid it, especially if you are likely to take your kids into the woods with you. I hope I was of help.

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