I must admit that I have been negligent with regard to certain subjects. In most cases, it was because I mistakenly assumed that certain things were so prevalent and common that any such column would simply be “preaching to the choir.”
It was my fault, and I humbly apologize. And I also promise that in the future, I will not let any topic of “common” interest go unnoticed for long in this print space. (Any comments from readers on “current” topics are welcome.)
The topic that really caught my attention came from Conrad H. in an email. He wondered what poison ivy looked like.
He sent a photo of a brushy area that had several species of plants, including brambles and poison ivy.
Poison ivy, as many know, is a very common noxious plant. It is one of three similar plant species, the others being poison ivy and poison ivy. The latter two are rare in New York and the northeastern United States
Some experts claim that there are two or three species of poison ivy, but their “differences” are very difficult to see or describe. I will therefore limit this article to poison ivy as the layman might see it.
This plant can grow differently depending on the region. I have watched it grow as a small plant, both small and large climbing vines and freestanding shrubs of various sizes. The leaves can be oval or egg-shaped.
They can have smooth edges, but they can also have “notches”. The leaves can be very small (especially in young plants or shoots from an underground root), and they can also be four to five inches long.
But there is one rule which, if followed religiously, will never fool you with this unwanted plant. It’s “Sheets of three, let it be.”
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I’ve seen poison ivy in so many different places, from swamps to high eastern mountains, and that three-leaf rule has always held true.
Even when there is a large “clump” of ivy, this plant rule still applies. There may be hundreds of leaf stalks emerging from the vines in the bunch, but each leaf stalk (including individual leaf stalks and the mother vine, which are also infective) will only have three leaves.
And those leaves can be the size of half a dollar, or they can be as big as a grown man’s hand. More importantly, and regardless of leaf size, all leaves contain the same chemical toxins that can cause infection and rash. And many people sensitive to the toxin could suffer far worse symptoms, including hospitalizations.
I have also observed it growing in large unbroken patches where it appears to be the only leafy plant present. And I have found it growing around the base of trees that are in the middle of fields and well away from any wooded area. Being careful around this plant is wise advice.
There is a general belief that up to 350,000 people in the United States are affected by poison ivy toxins each year. But that number is downright laughable.
What people making such predictions probably mean is that the number mentioned may refer to the number of people requiring hospitalization for poisoning. An estimated 4.5 million people come into contact with this plant each year.
However, only the number of cases requiring hospitalization is reported. Others rely on calamine lotion or other over-the-counter topical medications for relief.
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to this harmful plant. With the exception of the ‘leaf of three’ rule, it is hikers/farmers/gardeners/children/other outdoor enthusiasts who can fall victim to it, often without even realizing they have come close to it. the plant during their travels.
Poison ivy coverage in this column is “minimal” compared to other more detailed information available. And there are plenty of photographs on the internet that can give readers better details of what it looks like.
Please access all available information to educate yourself if you don’t already know what it looks like and how to avoid running into it (literally). Oh, and thank you, Conrad H., for your timely request.
When poison ivy helps serve justice
This article brings back a ton of memories of my service as a Special Agent with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of Law Enforcement. Like the time I found three dove hunters hiding in a field of standing corn.
I spotted them on the other side of a large field of recently harvested corn. Doves were pouring into this New York farm field, which is why I stopped my vehicle in the first place. I had never seen so many doves all going in the same direction.
It was a balmy, warm day, and I was about to continue on my way when I heard a burst of gunfire coming from somewhere across that field. So naturally, I just had to find out why someone was doing all this filming.
I found a place to hide my vehicle, then started walking just inside a wooded area to cover my approach. And that ploy worked well – until I ran out of wood while staying about a hundred yards from the three hunters I could see in that block of unharvested corn, a common tactic among waterfowl hunters ( mainly the Canada goose). .
Well, there was nothing else to do but expose my position and head towards this “blind”. And when I was about 20 meters out in the open, these guys spotted me and left, trying to do a “bail”. But I was in pretty good shape myself and went after them. Luckily they stuck together and they were loaded with plenty of gear besides their shotguns. I was slowly catching up too.
Then they came to a drainage ditch and hesitated for a good minute or two before rushing down the bank, only to come out on the far bank and into another patch of woods. But this short interval allowed me to close the gap between us, and I was less than twenty seconds behind them. I hopped along the bank, went through about a foot of mud and up the other side in a flash.
But these three men were not to be seen anywhere in front of me. They had disappeared, almost as if they had never been there at all.
But I knew differently, so I looked for any sign of them, and soon found him with balls of fresh mud in the dry woods. And I followed him until I came to a dense thicket of greenery. At that moment, I knew where those morons were hiding.
I yelled in my most “official” voice that they better get out NOW or I’d have to start filming. Since I was armed with a special .38 snub nose revolver and had six spare cartridges with me, I wasn’t going to fire too much, but I knew they were armed with shotguns, so everything bluff on my part was justified.
Well, the bluff worked very well. One by one, the three rose out of their cover of greenery and started walking towards me. I told them to bring all their gear with them and to make sure they had their hands on the barrels of their guns and were carrying the guns on their shoulders. They did just that.
When all three stood in front of me, I identified myself and told them they were under arrest for illegal dove hunting. New York does not allow a dove hunting season. Doves are “songbirds” in this state.
Then we returned to the field where I collected 17 dead doves. Oh, and I have to point out that all three were dressed in camouflage T-shirts and shorts.
Well, I wrote all three for a number of violations. And about two months later, they were in federal court in Syracuse to answer for their transgressions. The judge heard my testimony and found the three guilty on all counts. He fined each of them $1,700.
But the funniest part of all this, at least from my point of view, is that after the court I asked them if they had itched a lot? They all looked at me like they could choke me, but they left without saying a word.
You see, I recognized the green thicket in which they had sought shelter. And from what I could see, it was 100% covered in poison ivy.
And they had been rolling around in it for several minutes. I guess that proves that crime really doesn’t pay.
Len Lisenbee is the outside columnist for the Daily Messenger. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article originally appeared on Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: What does poison ivy look like? It varies but start from 3, let it be