Can You Spot the Differences Between Maine’s Big 3 Poison Plants?
Fun fact: I am UNBELIEVABLY allergic to poison ivy.
Like, probably-should-carry-an-epi-pin kind of allergic. And apparently some house plants as well such as the philodendron. When I was a kid, I got into the poison ivy more than a few times, and it was baaaad. I'd manage to somehow cover myself from head to toe. But you know how it is when you're a kid, you pretty much roll around in the stuff without really knowing it.
Fast forward to adulthood...So thanks to the wonderful resource of Poison-Ivy.org, let's have a look-see into what the differences are in these three plants.
Let's start with good old Poison Ivy.
Poison Ivy is a generally a small plant, close to the ground that has three reddish, slightly tear drop shaped leaves, with a slightly jagged, but not sharp edge. Now, the exact appearance can be affected by time of year, but the shape will always be consistent. Here's a photo:
Believe it or not, you're not likely to catch Poison Oak here. But...
Poison Oak is another little leafy jerk of a plant that grows all over the place out west. So it is kind of the trick question here for us Mainers. You hear people talk about it all the time, but I can't recall anyone actually being diagnosed with it. However, it looks an awful lot like poison ivy, but a bit different. So likely, lots of folks have seen photos, but it was probably poison ivy they were seeing. I'll show the photo here, so you can see the difference between the two. You don't see it often in Maine, but it's out there.
Now, Poison Sumac is a different story.
Poison Sumac does grow here quite abundantly here in Maine, in wet areas near streams, rivers, lakes, bogs, and all-around swampy areas. It's more of a tall shrub compared to poison ivy, which tends to grow closer to the ground. Although, poison ivy can climb and cover. Poison Sumac also has tear drop shaped, waxy looking leaves with some small little flowery looking things on it as well. Scope this photo to see what I'm talking about.
So what if I touch one of these plants?
If you do and you know it, you have about a 30 minute window to wash up. After that, the oil will take hold and you'll need to just wait and see at that point. To wash it off, you'll want to start with cold water and alcohol...no soap. The soap can actually help spread the oil over your body. Once you're done with the cold water and alcohol, then take a shower.
Also, it's definitely an old wives tale that the rash can be spread by touching someone with blisters. There is no oil in the skin blisters. However, that person may still have clothing, car seats, or other surfaces that may be affected, so watch out for those things.
At any rate, it's just one more thing we have to shove into our memory banks to keep track of as we try to enjoy outdoors in Maine this summer. Ticks, mosquitoes, black flies, poison ivy......it's a lot, but like I said about the ticks, it's better than tornadoes, rattlers, and scorpions!