Let’s Outsmart Poison Ivy

by Charlotte Kidd, M. Ed.



Umar Mycka’s Tips for the Homeowner, Gardener, Property Owner, Parent

Poison ivy is a bully. Fear of this noxious vine can trap us in our homes. Dread of getting the poison ivy rash stops us from enjoying our yards and our gardens with family and friends, says Philadelphia horticulturist Umar Mycka. Anticipating our children’s itching misery and sleepless nights, we limit their outdoor play.

Unfortunately Eastern Climbing Poison Ivy is stealthy and opportunistic in the Eastern United States. The green-leafed vine with the irritating oil (called resin) grows low along the ground or a wall and also climbs a tree, explains Mycka, veteran poison ivy removal specialist, and owner of IDontWantPoisonIvy.com.

We often walk right by poison ivy or brush up against it without noticing it.

Green. Green. Green. For most people, green plants look the same. We’re annoyingly surprised when we get the red, itchy, blistering rash. Where did the #!#! come from? Poison ivy grows around us in the suburbs, in the country, in cities, on hiking trails, bordering athletic fields, around school yards. In parks, fields, along creek and river paths.

We humans can outsmart pesky poison ivy! How?

Umar Mycka’s Four Tips for Homeowner, Gardener, Property Owner, and Parent.

Poison ivy seedlings, plants, and vines grow in our yards and gardens. Seedlings sprout and thrive as plants in the lawn, under trees, in ground-hugging English ivy, Pachysandra, and Vinca vine. The poison ivy vine grows up our garage walls and below our house’s drainpipes.

Here are four ways to stay safe and beat this pest.

  1. Is the suspicious plant poison ivy or a look-alike vine? Not sure? Best to call a horticulture professional for a consultation. For about $50, the professional will tell you if the plant is poison ivy or a look-alike plant. The professional will also search the property for young plants and older vines. See #4 for details.
  1. If there are only a few seedlings, you might carefully remove them, says Mycka. He’s found though that people often underestimate how much poison ivy is on their property. “Where you see one plant, there are likely to be more- five, eight, ten plants nearby.”
  1. Think twice about removing a lot of poison ivy yourself. Is it worth getting the itchy rash, feeling miserable, and missing sleep and work? “Don’t feel you have to handle this alone,” Mycka advises. “If you’ve gotten poison ivy before or have a related medical condition, contact a professional for help. Consider the medical problems and lost work time, vacation time related to getting the poison ivy rash.”
  1. Killing poison ivy with an herbicide does not eliminate the plant’s danger to us. Beyond safety and health, “professional help can save you money compared to unsuccessful trial-and-error,” Mycka adds. “Don’t waste money on using chemicals.” One recent homeowner called Mycka after spending $300 on herbicide that did not eliminate the poison ivy.

Why? Killing poison ivy with an herbicide DOES NOT make the irritating resin disappear. Poison ivy resin remains in dead leaves, stems, vines, and roots. Touching dead poison ivy debris will cause a skin rash just like touching a live plant.

A professional removal company like Mycka’s will dig out and take away the vines. Removing all plant material eliminates the resin. Mycka returns to the property in two months to see if any remaining roots and vine have regrown. Cost for professional removal ranges from $600 to $1,200 to $5,000.

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