Friday, June 1, 2012

Poison Oak -- My Nemesis

There aren't many plants, insects or animals, I despise. I understand the reason for their existence but one plant I despise and can't understand why it grows everywhere is poison oak. It is my nemesis or to put it in dictionary terms, "One that inflicts relentless vengeance or destruction, or an unbeatable rival."

Because I'm highly allergic, over the years, it has grown everywhere in and around my yard. I've avoided doing any work to remove it, since I get the annoying rash just looking at a plant. But I'm waging war against it this summer and using measures at least to keep it out of areas my pets and I play and travel.

Poison oak depending on location can either be a vine or a shrub. As a vine it will climb to the top of any tree or support. As a shrub it can grow from one to six feet. It is a perennial that returns each year bigger and stronger maintained by strong root crowns and a hardy rhizome network. Birds spread seeds from mature plants to areas in the yard and roosting spots under trees.

Even if you cut the leaves or woody stems it will grow back two fold. A brush killer like "Roundup" is needed to kill this plant demon. Don't be fooled, even the dead growth can illicit a reaction and start a rash.

Poison oak or "Rhus toxicodendron" can be recognized by groups of three leafs on each stem, bearing small green flowers and white to green berries the size of  tapioca pearls. As seen above, "Roundup" will kill the bush or vine within several days. But since I'm so allergic, I will wear rubber insulated gloves, long sleeves, pants, socks and boots to pull up and discard these dead plants.

The rash from poison oak is made by a substance called urushiol oil found in all parts of the plant. Three fourths of all people react or develop the rash when contact is made to leaves, stems or roots.
The effect is a burning itch resulting in redness and blisters if rubbed or scratched. The oil is not water soluble and easily spreads by breaking the blisters. I found this product, pictured above, good to wash away the urushiol oil after I had been infected last year.

The best solution for poison oak is to use a brush killer every year and spray early in spring to prevent over growth, but below are a few handy tips for you and your family to prevent poison oak infection:

      * Dress appropriately; rubber based gloves, long sleeves, long pants, socks and boots.

      * Wash after contact; bathe immediately, wash clothes and tools before future wear or use.

      * Do not burn poison oak leaves, plants or roots, as the oil can be inhalled from the smoke!

      * If pets are exposed, bathe them, as soon as possible, as the urushiol is easily transferred by

As, I mentioned earlier, there aren't many insects, plants and animals that I don't respect and accept as part of God's creation on this great planet. But poison oak ranks first above ticks, mosquitos and fire ants and is my nemesis. Instead of a sword or gun, I plan to defeat this foe with a sprayer full of "Roundup!"

Untill next time.....

Happy Gardening 2012!

Posted by Wilma Smith

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