En Español

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

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.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
1 rating

Tuesday - April 22, 2008

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Poisonous Plants
Title: Dealing with poison ivy
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Suggestions for eradicating Poison Ivy? I have just a small growth in my backyard. Thanks -

ANSWER:

Eradicating? Isn't going to happen. Controlling? Yes, you can do that, but it's not a one-off operation. Toxicodendron radicans (eastern poison ivy) is easily and continuously spread by birds, who like the berries. They eat the berry, it's processed through their digestive system, and they return it to the earth with some fresh fertilizer, no charge. Poison ivy is very good at camouflage and disguise, as well. It needs shade and moisture, so what better place than under an ornamental bush or tree that you are watering and caring for? It can climb trees, concealing its stems in the bark, with dark green leaves that blend right in. You really can't risk using an herbicide, because there's no way to keep from zapping the ornamentals you have painstakingly planted. Some gardeners have tried "painting" a few leaves with herbicide, but this is still pretty chancy.

So, here is our recommendation. You'll need rubber gloves (like you use for dishwashing) and paper towels or newspaper, plus a plastic trash bag for disposal. Scout out the roots, and with gloves on and a piece of paper towel wrapped around the roots try to pull it all out. As you pull it out, keep the stems away from you, wrap it in paper and put it in the plastic bag. We have heard that washing skin that has been exposed to poison ivy, very quickly, in dishwashing soap will help. What we do is wash our hands, with the rubber gloves still on, in the dishwashing liquid. If you feel your clothes have come in contact with the poison ivy, take them off very gingerly, trying not to touch any of the oils from the ivy, and get them straight into the washing machine. This may sound very elaborate, but anyone who has ever had poison ivy dermatitis will tell you it's worth it.

Toxicodendron radicans (eastern poison ivy) is deciduous, but even dormant plant material can cause problems if it's touched. The best time to attack it is in the early Spring, when the whole plant should be easier to get out. It takes many different forms, although the rule of "leaves of three, let them be" still applies.


Toxicodendron radicans

Toxicodendron radicans

Toxicodendron radicans

Toxicodendron radicans

 

 

More Poisonous Plants Questions

Non-Toxic Hedge for Wisconsin
December 17, 2015 - What would be a good non-toxic for dogs, privacy hedge about 3-6 feet tall for Wisconsin climate zone 4b?
view the full question and answer

Is Sucissa pratensis (Devil's bit scabious) allelopathic?
July 04, 2013 - Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center pointed me to you. Can you comment on Devil's Bit Scabious? A neighbor pointed out these volunteer plants in my yard and wants me to kill them. He called them Devi...
view the full question and answer

Comment on poisonous sweet pea plant from Kalama WA
October 29, 2011 - No question, comment only. I am aware of the story of Christopher McCandless (Call of the Wild)and the belief that he was poisoned by ingesting part of the sweet pea plant; however I am curious what ...
view the full question and answer

Dog Friendly Privacy Hedge for Long Island
April 14, 2013 - Can you please advise me of some plants for a privacy hedge that are non-toxic to dogs and that would thrive on Long Island, NY? I am looking for a hedge to grow to about 6-8 ft.
view the full question and answer

Non-poisonous Hedge for Southern California
November 27, 2010 - What is a non-poisonous (to dogs), fast-growing, evergreen plant that I can grow as a tall screening hedge for privacy? I find differing opinions on Carolina Cherry and Podocarpus gracilior. Thank you...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center