By Joseph Mooney
Poison ivy’s fall leaves are brilliant orange-red and really stand out in the landscape. Photo by Alan Schmierer.
You read that right: poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) is our featured native plant this week.
Not that we recommend seeking out or handling this widespread native plant. In fact, we strongly urge you not to handle poison ivy unless you plan to remove it from your property. Even then you’ll need to take extra care to avoid contact with all parts of the plant. (Also, just saying, this is not a plant to put in your garden.)
Mainly we’re featuring poison ivy this week because it’s 1) native and 2) starting to appear in many local parks and gardens. You can certainly find it in the Arb and at Matthaei. So you’ll want to be able to identify it. But its shape-shifting ways, especially in the leaves, can sometimes make ID difficult even for seasoned spotters.
It can be a vine, growing up a tree and attaching itself with a dense network of hair-like aerial roots. It can be a kind of groundcover, sprawling over the forest floor or a clearing. It can even take the shape of a small upright shrub. How does it pop up in your well-tended garden? Birds and mammals eat poison ivy seeds, and then….
Poison ivy roots climbing a tree are often covered with a hair-like aerial roots. Photo by Jay Cross.