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APR's Gardening Series -- Poison Ivy and Oak

By Brett Tannehill, Alabama Public Radio

APR's Gardening Series -- Poison Ivy and Oak

Tuscaloosa, AL – "Leaves of three - let it be". That's the old saying aimed at helping people steer clearing of Poison Ivy and Poison Oak. In today's installment of our Monday morning gardening series, we'll learn how to better identify and eradicate these potentially dangerous plants. Brett Tannehill has the story.

One mission of the University of Alabama's Arboretum is to grow and preserve the state's native plant species. One native plant workers have little trouble maintaining ... poison ivy.

"Moderation, we like all things in moderation!"

That's horticulturist Mary Jo Modica, who is standing next to a display area lush of poison ivy, which she uses as an instructional tool. Poison Ivy and Poison Oak both thrive in moist, partly shaded areas, whether it be in the woods or around your house. To kill the plant, you can use a broad-leaf herbicide. But Modica says they prefer an old fashioned, natural method.

"Lately, we've been using a 20-percent vinegar solution to do that. We've had some success with that, you just have to be careful that the vinegar drift doesn't get on something you want."

Spraying the vine's foliage kills the leaves, but not always the plant. To be more effective, put on gloves and pull the plant partially out of the ground. Then make a nick in the exposed vine and root, and spray it. Repeat applications are sometimes needed.

If the poison ivy or oak touches your bare skin, the oil on its leaves will likely cause an itchy rash. Protect yourself by wearing, gloves, long sleeves and pants, and boots. There are also products ... like TechNu ... that can safely block or remove damaging oils. Here's some other tips ... contaminated clothes should always be washed separately ... pets can carry the oils on their coats, so be careful when handling them ... also use caution when clearing and burning brush. Vines still contain oil even if they have no leaves. They can also cause problems if you inhale the fumes while burning them.

But the best protection ... if you see leaves of three-let it be! However, if it has five leaves, it's most likely a common, harmless vine called Virginia Creeper.

For the Alabama Report, I'm Brett Tannehill.

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