Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Poison Ivy, Thorny Vines, among the Tall Pines

. When I was a boy in California, I was plagued by poison oak. My brothers and I would often go hiking and I invariably developed a rash as a result. I had but to approach within several feet to catch it, it seemed. More than once I had to stay home from school, because of great scabby patches on my arms. Here in Texas, I escaped its ravages for most of my life here. But, where I live now, my back yard is laced with poison ivy and it is a big yard. Along with that those thorny vines. For a number of years, I just kept a trail open to my storage shed and let the back grow at will. Any Texan can imagine the forest that grew among the tall pines back there. Thorn vines growing everywhere and climbing the trees. Poison ivy growths everywhere and sharing the trees with the thorn vines.

Not so long back, I decided to clean it all out. Being retired, I had lots of time to do so, leisurely. Since I am one of those nuts who does not like breathing smoke from the neighbors' fires, or my own, I made two piles of brush and left them to nature, for the time being. I cut out the yaupons to ground level and they kept growing back. But I finally could mow most of it and finally the yard became fairly habitable. I had to treat my skin constantly for poison ivy outbreaks and the thorn vines kept popping out as fast as I mowed over them.

Last summer I began digging up the thorn vines' roots. There were two kinds. A common root that ran for great distances beneath the soil for one, and they grew in clumps, similar to potatoes for the second. After months of diligence, all but some stragglers have been uprooted.

The poison ivy becomes mostly inactive, during the winter season. This past winter, I began digging it out by the roots, one plant at a time. As the weather changed into spring and the poison ivy became active, I found myself scouring the yard, daily, uprooting dozens of plants. Sometimes they grow off of roots that are many yards long; sometimes they appear to be a single unit. Every time I think I may have it all out, I discover whole new patches to work on. I am determined that this will be the year in which my yard has been tamed. Being in Texas, it will always be susceptible to reverting to forest. But, not on my watch.

A related thing I wanted to write about is, I have learned how to beat poison ivy rashes. It is so simple, I don't know why I didn't hear of it sooner. My next door neighbor got shots for it last time. Now, each time I start feeling a slight poison ivy itch, I wash all suspect areas with Dawn dish soap. After I have rinsed away the soap, I get a clean wet wash cloth and scrub all suspect areas. Without the rag and the scrubbing, it does not work. I change clothes if I think they have been affected and I don't let the clothes or wash cloth touch anything, except the bottom of the clothes washer. Since I learned this, I have not had a single outbreak.


  1. You do NOT want to be burning poison ivy, etc. The smoke can carry the poisonous oils and inhalation can be quite dangerous if you're sensitive. Not sure about the possibility of skin irritation via smoke.

  2. My ex boss was telling me of somebody she knows that was burning poison ivy. Like you said, the smoke is dangerous, as his son found out.