Poison Ivy Control

Certain words, when used in combination, can elicit quite the response. The words “Poison Ivy” certainly have that effect.

If you, or your children, have ever suffered an outbreak (fig. 1) of Poison Ivy, you know the drill. It’s awful.

Poison Ivy Rash on armFig. 1

Identifying the Pest

We always say that the first step in controlling any pest is proper identification. Poison Ivy is prevalent throughout the woody areas of Southern New England. It is commonly found growing around the base of trees, near low-lying brush, and along rock walls. Poison Ivy can grow in a couple forms: vine-like underbrush, climbing vines (with fuzzy roots), or as a woody shrub.

Poison Ivy is often confused with a few other common plants that do look somewhat similar. There are a couple other key identifiers when picking Poison Ivy out of the crowd. Keep an eye out for groupings of three ribbed lush green leaves with smooth edges and a tear-drop shape (fig. 2). Later in the growing season, in the early fall stage, the plant’s leaves begin to turn an orange, red, or purple color (fig. 3). The expose threat remains. So be careful!

Poison IvyFig. 2

Poison Ivy Leaves in Early FallFig. 3

Treating the Pest

There are a couple ways to treat Poison Ivy… physical removal or selective herbicidal treatment.

Physical removal is best done by pulling up the roots in early spring or late fall, as soil is very moist and soft. This method can be quite hazardous as exposure risks are high. Long pants, sleeves, and gloves are highly recommended. Never burn the plant after removal, as the oils which cause the allergic reaction become airborne and can be inhaled, causing a rash inside the respiratory system. This is to be avoided at all costs.

Another popular form of treatment is via selective or non-selective herbicide. This type of treatment is best performed in the spring or early summer, when the leaves are fully extended and the plant is actively growing. When properly treated, the plant will start to shrivel and dry up (fig. 4). The plant ceases growth and oil production. This DOES NOT mean that the threat of exposure is eliminated, just reduced. The oil is still on the plant and in the surrounding area.

Also, if treating with an herbicide near desired ornamentals or on trees, a swabbing technique may be preferred in order to localize the treatment to the leaves of the Poison Ivy, thus avoiding damage to the desired plants. If proper treatment is not achieved, severe damage to desired, non-target plants can occur (fig. 5).

No matter the treatment plan, it is nearly impossible to completely eradicate Poison Ivy. Regular treatment or removal is to be expected as Poison Ivy is a vigorous survivor. Scout the infested area each spring and fall to inspect for new growth (fig. 6) and treat accordingly.

Treated Poison IvyFig. 4

Damage to Non-Target PlantsFig. 5

Poison Ivy New GrowthFig. 6

Bottom Line…Call Us!

Successful treatment of poison ivy is often difficult to achieve. Dermal exposure risk, damage to desired plants or trees, and other hazards exist. Here at Simply Safer Lawn Care we have been successfully treating poison ivy for many, many years and have the experience needed to help you get the right results.