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A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Thursday - April 03, 2008

From: Jacksonville, NC
Region: Southeast
Topic: Poisonous Plants
Title: Campsis radicans or cow itch
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We cleaned my father-in-law's home-place up out in the country week-before-last. My wife, her 2 sisters and a niece have this unusual-looking poison on them. It is big red places and itches all over their bodies. Some say it is "cow itch". What is cow itch and what does it look like?

ANSWER:

One of the common names for Campsis radicans (trumpet creeper) is cow itch vine. We found a website on trumpet creeper that mentioned the irritation caused by contact with this vine; however, it states that the irritation should only last for a few minutes. It is a native of North Carolina, and easily escapes cultivation and gets all over everywhere, so you could easily have come in contact with it during your cleanup operation. Unfortunately, we suspect what you actually encountered is Toxicodendron radicans (eastern poison ivy). This plant is also native to North Carolina, and often found in shady, neglected areas. The rash from this for those sensitive to it (and nearly everyone is) is much more persistent, painful and hard to control. We don't have pictures for the two different rashes-a rash is a rash, showing up differently on different types of skin, etc. The members of your family that had the misfortune to come in contact with it should probably see a doctor. There are treatments for the rash, and it can be almost disabling until it goes away. You will note, when you read the webpage for this vine, that it can have many different appearances, and here is a page of images of the plant. We'll add a couple from our own Image Gallery. You can compare the leaves of the trumpet creeper with the leaves of the poison ivy, and see that, even when the trumpet creeper is not in bloom, there shouldn't be any confusion between the two plants. Remember the old saying, "Leaves of three, leave them be."


Campsis radicans

Toxicodendron radicans

Toxicodendron radicans

Toxicodendron radicans

 

 

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