One winter, when I was in the 5th grade, I came down with a mysterious rash on my face. It was blotchy, blistery, and itchy. My mom, a trained nurse, couldn't figure out what it was, nor by extension, how to help me. She theorized that maybe I had sat too close to the wood stove and burned my face (I do love a hot fire in the winter months). She wondered if I'd had an allergic reaction to the laundry detergent or perhaps the soap I used to wash my face. She applied cool compresses. She tried various itch creams. Nothing helped. Finally, she took me to the doctor who eventually determined I had poison ivy. In the dead of winter. How could that happen? No-one knew until a couple of weeks later when I brought home a school project.
We were studying the native people from our area- Wampanoags- and I had built a scale model of what we then called a wigwam, though I now know the proper term is wetu. And what, you ask, did I use to lash the poles together? You guessed it- poison ivy vines. Who knew you could get poison ivy from those? Who even knew what they looked like? That day, I vowed to learn what poison ivy looked like in every season so I wouldn't catch it again. Sadly, I have caught poison ivy since, even as an adult, (sometimes I swear I get it just by looking at it, I'm that allergic) but I do know exactly what it looks like, no matter the season.
Today, I offer these photos to help my New England readers avoid poison ivy. These were all taken in the last week, so this is what poison ivy looks like now. I'll be sure to post some photos during the fall and winter to help you avoid my itchy mistake!
Notice the differences in the color and size of the leaves. Poison Ivy can look very different even in the same area. All of these photos were taken within roughly 1/4 mile of my house.
One thing that is consistent is the presence of three leaves in a cluster. Usually those leaves are shiny. Sometimes those leaves are mostly green.
Other times the leaves are more red. (Especially when they are first coming out in the spring).
Sometimes it grows low to the ground like in the photos above. Other times it climbs up posts, signs, and trees as in these photos:
This one is about 3 feet tall.
This one climbs about 20 feet into the tree.
These last two photos are NOT poison ivy. This vine is sometimes confused with Poison ivy because it climbs the same way and has similar shaped leaves.
But look closely... there are 5 leaves in each cluster and the leaves are more jagged.
One final tip: poison ivy thrives along the edges. That is, in the area where one ecosystem transitions to another. For example, some of these photos were taken along the edge of a field where it transitions into forest (in partial to full sun), others along the edge of a brook (in partial sun), still others along the edge of a road (in full shade). Also watch for it along the edges of parks, paths, or trails.
A little light reading for my next project. Trying to wrap my head around some complex acoustical oceanography work I learned about @woodshole_ocean yesterday. #STEM #STEAM #nonfiction #kidlit
Henna art and instrument painting has started! #WorldFiddleDay @southcoastlessons @hatchstreetstudios
Final practice before #WorldFiddleDay kicks off here at Hatch Street Studios in New Bedford in a little over an hour. Join us!
It turned into a gorgeous afternoon. First time writing in the porch. This view while working isn’t too bad. I love our Kwanzan Cherry. #amwriting
Ah, poison ivy, you look so beautiful in the early spring, but your leaves will bring me nothing but suffering if I touch you. And so, I admire you from a safe distance.
Having some pretty Irish style weather here in southeastern Massachusetts today. We finally found the rainbow we knew had to be around.
I love this photo of me and my mom waiting for the school bus for my first day of kindergarten. It’s funny that my dad took this shot from behind. Once my son started walking, I often found myself taking photos from behind of him walking with his dad. When my daughter was born, I did the same with her. There’s something so sweet about those shots.
It’s a “mom taxi” kind of afternoon. What’s this mom to do with 30 minutes between duties? Park by the ocean and type up notes from this morning’s planning session with @erinmdionne. #amwriting
I love this tree. My husband and I planted it with friends and family when we renewed our vows for our tenth anniversary. That was 19 years ago. It looks more spectacular every year. #nature
It’s teacher appreciation week. Seems like the perfect time to share a post I wrote about my favorite teacher on the occasion of her 85th birthday. That was in 2012. She surprised me at my book launch last May, 6 years later! I cried when I saw her. (That’s us in the photo along with @painternik9 at our launch). Read my post here: http://www.michellecusolito.com/blog/2012/05/tribute-to-mrs-clay.html?rq=Mrs.%20Clay