At first glance, that wooded area on your property looks like a beautiful nature preserve. Maybe you want to clear it out or cut a little hiking path through it to better utilize the space. But, what looks like a beautiful slice of nature can also be hiding some very dangerous plants that you don’t want to be near. We’ll teach you how to identify these poisonous plants before it’s too late.
The king of the poisonous plants, but the thing is, it’s not actually poisonous. Poison ivy is covered in a secretion called urushiol and when it comes into contact with human skin it can have a severe and painful allergic reaction. The severity can vary from person to person and also depends on how much you are exposed to. In the worst cases you can get it down your throat which is why you should never burn poison ivy.
Identifying poison ivy is pretty easy as their leaves grow in threes and are either smooth or serrated. Their stems can be green or red depending on the season and can grow as vines or shrubs. Many people contract poison ivy when they attempt to maintain their trees by ripping down unknown vines by hand. If you are in doubt, count the leaves and leave it alone. Extreme caution should be taken when working in overgrown areas; always wear long pants, sleeves, and gloves.
Do you see that vine tightly hugging that tree. Look closer. Does it have three leaves? Leave it alone. Poison oak is another common vine/shrub that is packed with urushiol. Instead of three smooth leaves, poison oak brandishes three lobed leaves that look like the leaf of a common oak tree but don’t be fooled.
Poison oak can wrap itself so tightly to its host tree that it might appear as though the leaves belonged to the tree. But if you know your trees and can compare the leaves of the canopy to the leaves on the trunk than you can spot the imposter.
Poison sumac is different in that it doesn’t grow as a vine or shrub but as a tree. It’s commonly found in wetlands and swamps where it thrives and grows to a staggering 20 feet. Because of its isolated locations, it doesn’t bother people as much as poison ivy or oak, but unsuspecting hikers or farmers might find themselves in a world of hurt if they come into contact with this plant.
When identifying poison sumac, look for branches that contain anywhere from 7-13 leaves growing along either side of the branch with one leaf at the end. In the fall it’s yellow berries give it away from the rest of the foliage.
Poison ivy, oak, and sumac all contain the nasty chemical urushiol. You don’t even have to touch the plant itself to get the reaction; you can get it second hand from clothes, tools, and even your pets. When working in wooded and overgrown areas, always remember: wear long sleeves and pants, clean tools after each use, NEVER EVER burn these poisonous plants or wood that it has touched, and shower immediately after.
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