Something I have learned a lot about since moving to Arkansas is Poison Ivy. I have had my bouts with the wicked oil from the plant and tried every cure I could think of. Grandma’s Lye soap seems to work the best for me. There are a lot of old sayings to help you identify the plant. I wish I had heard the old sayings, “Hairy vine no friend of mine, or “Hairy rope don’t be a dope” long before I ever moved to Arkansas.
When I first moved to Greenwood, (24 years ago), I saw something on the Oak Tree in my back yard I had never encountered before. I had this rope looking vine growing up the side of my Oak Tree. I got an extension ladder out and pulled that vine off my tree from the ground to as high as fifteen feet up the side of the trunk of the tree. The whole job took me about two hours. I was pretty proud of my accomplishment; I thought my tree looked a lot better. A while later I got to itching, not itching a little bit, I itched a lot. In no time flat I looked like a walking raspberry. I rushed to Dr. Craft’s office to find out what had overtaken my body. When the Doc came in the room he extended his hand with a kind “hello Jim”, and then retracted his hand as if to be guarding his body. He only asked me one question, “Did you take a bath in Poison Ivy?” I simply replied, “No, I removed this hairy vine off the side of my tree. “ Dr. Craft simply busted out laughing, when he finally caught his breath he said, “You didn’t” to which I answered, “Yes I did.” Dr. Craft busted out laughing, again. In fact he was laughing when he hammered me in the heinie with those two Cortisone shots, he was laughing as he wrote out my prescriptions and he was laughing as he advised me not to pull any more hairy vines off of my Oak trees, I think I made his day.
There are some very good rhymes out there that will help protect you from poison Ivy. The old wives tale that I remember the most about Poison Ivy is. “Leaves of three let it be.” This refers to the plants grouping of three leaves which are most commonly associated with the Poison Ivy plant. Even though there are more plants on the forest floor that have three leaves, I let them all be! One can also identify Poison Ivy by the stem of the middle leaf. It is noticeably longer than the stems holding the side leaves on the plant. The old rhyme goes something like this, “Longer middle stem stay away from them.” During the early and mid-fall the berries on a Poison Ivy plant will turn white. These white berries are a favorite snack of several bird and animal species. Even though the seeds have been passed through the digestive tract of some animal, they can still take hold and grow the next spring. The white berries have their own saying, “berries of white, run in fright” or people may say, “Berries of white, danger in sight.”
All in all you have got to hand it to the Poison Ivy plant. It just looks like ground cover on the forest floor. But that little plant can cause you overwhelming misery for weeks. Be careful where you walk in the forest. Believe me, you do not want to take any of that Poison Ivy home with you. If you do come in contact with the leaves, there is soap on the market that will come close to completely removing the oils from your skin. It’s called TecNu. CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart all carry it. Keep some on hand if you have poison ivy on your property or campsites. Washing within four to five hours of contact will completely remove the oils from your skin.